Downtown Muncie is nearing the completion of its months-long construction project, adding ADA compliant sidewalks, parking spots and bike lanes, as well as opening Walnut Street to two-way traffic and improving water drainage. Downtown developers are anticipating increased patronage for businesses who lost money due to the traffic disruption. Mary Freda // DN File
Downtown construction hurts businesses
Downtown Muncie is in the middle of a major construction project.
Currently, the city is working to reconstruct the downtown streets, sidewalks and sewers.
While the construction will benefit downtown’s merchants in the long run, the longevity of the project has left some owners with fewer customers.
Mattie Coleman, owner of Town Boutique is one of the many business owners that has been impacted.
“I been downtown about 45 years and through my sewing and selling, I travel a lot with big conventions; I go to about eight conventions a year,” Coleman said. “I tell anybody, ‘always have a side job, a side business with your business’ because you never can tell what will happen because you see with this work going on downtown, if I didn’t have some other place to go and make money, I’d done been gone.”
Along with the boutique, there are several other downtown restaurants, bars and small business that say it’s getting harder to remain open.
Victoria Veach, Muncie Downtown Development Partnership executive director, said progress is being made.
“Construction presents a challenge, but, for the most part, we are hearing positive comments as people anticipate the opening of Walnut Street to two-way traffic, ADA compliant sidewalks that promote outdoor dining, improved water drainage, added parking spots and added bike lanes,” Veach said. “We received confirmation that the phase South of Charles is ahead of schedule and on track to be paved this week.”
As of now, the project is still on schedule for substantial completion by the end of September or first of October, she said.
Once construction is done, companies hope that students venture off campus to downtown Muncie.
“Muncie is a little different,” Debbe Caine, Hayloft Boutique owner, said. “Students need to branch out a little bit and come into the downtown area and all of the areas, for that matter. Just get off campus, go check it out.”
Not only does downtown Muncie offer dining and shopping, it also offers employment opportunities for students.
“I’m keeping Ball State students by employing them and inspiring them to stay in Muncie,” Heidi Hale, Heidi J Hale owner, said. “It’s keeping them here because they have a job. They’re all metals majors and art majors, [and] there’s a place for them to come ... do what they went to school for and it’s right here in Muncie.”