New hotels coming in downtown Muncie, Ball State University

By Rick Yencer

MUNCIE, IN -  Muncie's Redevelopment Commission agreed to buy property Thursday that could be used for a new hotel and other development next to the downtown Horizon Convention Center.

 And Ball State University continues to move on property at University and McKinley avenues where a new $25 million hotel and conference center will be built as early as 2013.

 All the talk and property acquisition indicated  full service hotels will return to the Muncie market that now has 989 rooms mainly on the Bethel Avenue and McGalliard Road hospitality route that generally are occupied by visitors of Ball State,  I.U. Health Ball Memorial Hospital, and the Academy of Model Aeronautics.

 Mayor Dennis Tyler did not want to talk too much about the downtown hotel project as the MRC agreed to participate in the $75,000 purchase of the old Muncie Mission site across from the convention center and about at the High and Seymour streets crossing. The city negotiated the purchase after the mission torn down the old building and did extensive excavation of the site for old tanks or other environmental problems.

The cost was based on the average of a couple of appraisals and considered a deal by city officials since the mission spent money on demolition and cleanup.

 Tyler believed Muncie could support both hotel projects given the current occupancy and how a downtown hotel could impact the downtown.

 There's little new building downtown except for the new Muncie Music Center that is building on Mulberry near Seymour steets. Dan Allen, MRC president, recalled the impact of another big, new building when the headquarters for  DeFur Voran, and Raymond James was built. The Munseetown Square office building was among the largest new construction downtown in recent years.

 A new hotel development began after the city decided to turn the old Roberts Hotel into apartments for those of age. The convention center, primarily funded by county food and beverage taxes, does its own food but  meeting planners still see the need for a hotel and other attractions to keep convention business coming.

 Last April, BSU President Jo Ann Gora talked about the university's need for a $25 million hotel and convention center that includes 100 hotel rooms and 50 dorm rooms besides restaurants and other conference facilities. That development also would help grow the University Village that has seen ups and downs with various property owners and developments.

 The stumbling block is acquiring a property from the David Hiatt Trust that is owns Hiatt Printing and run by Chris Hiatt, a government activist. Joan Todd, university spokesman, said both formal and informal offers had been made to acquire Hiatt's property. Hiatt also tried to get the law changed to get the university to pay more for businesses facing condemnation. But there's been no agreement and the university still has not decided on court-ordered condemnation or more talks as Hiatt  becomes more defiant in his dealings.

 The Village already is expected to be bolstered by a new apartment complex built by Brinshore Development  just south of the Village. Those extra residents  point to the need for more retail besides more places to eat.

 Local visitor and convention officials still dream of the day that full service returns to Muncie's hotel industry, while others believe continental  breakfast could remain as the future as it is in nearby Anderson.

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