New face of downtown Muncie gets backing

By Rick Yencer

MUNCIE, IN -  Mutual Bank will underwrite a $1 million facelift of downtown Muncie that stands to get more people and business in 2013.

 That money tree known as the Muncie Redevelopment Commission will open competition for facade grants next month with work possible starting in the spring.

 "We could be ready to start construction at the first robin," said Dan Allen, president of the Muncie Redevelopment Commission.

 Mutual was selected over Old National and First Merchants that wanted a piece of the development project to strip off more aluminum or faded brick sidings to improve current business or encourage new ones.

 The bank offered a low 1.2 percent rate over a 10 year payback that will cost the MRC a little more than $123,000 a year. And grants will be forgivable depending on longevity and use.

 Chris Allen, who will administer the program for the city's Community Development agency, said there was no shortage of interest in the latest program. Seven property owners have expressed interest, including some MRC members, and more than 30 properties are eligible, with many more possible.

 Bill Morgan, the city's historic preservation officer, pointed out hoe some, like a group of  storefronts on South High Street, owned by Hans Heinzelman, received historic recognition for other work.

 Among commission members interested are Ken Hughes, the primary interest Vine Management that owns the Rose Court on Charles Street, and Bill Smith, a partner in the old Sears Building on Walnut Street. Flo Lapin also would like to take a shot at stripping off the aluminum on her building at Main and Mulberry streets where the Downtown Farm Stand is located.

Dan Allen hoped the development would spur the investment of the last program that encouraged more than $20 million in private financing and plenty of new business.

City government also is doing its part in building new sidewalks along Charles Street also with repaving it where buses have made it a washboard. More repaving will be done on Walnut along government buildings.