Delaware County IN looks for new homes, businesses in 2014

Manufacturing space also needed in 2014 State of Real Estate

By Rick Yencer

MUNCIE, INDIANA (NEWS) - Modest two percent growth predicted by economist Michael Hicks in 2014 sounded the bell for more new home construction and business starts with lenders ready to finance the growth.

And realtors and ledners also learned that new manufacturing space was in short supply as local government builds a 200,000-square foot building in the south Muncie Industria Centre.

That was a summary of the State of Real Estate offered by Coldwell Banker Lunsford, a large commercial real estate company in Wednesday.

Nearly 100 realtors, bankers, developers and other propery interested attended to get the inside on what's been going on in real estate and what to expect in 2014.

Hicks, who directs Ball State's Center for Business Research, started with his projections for growth in the economy, whether it was manfacturing or building. That two percent growth could be driven by both, he said.

Employment also should see fairly stable growth this year, as Hicks pointed to drops in home construction in recent years.

Broker Jim Kouns projected flat home sales in 2014 and a need for new construction. Only a hanful of new homes were built in 2013, he said.

While new homes have flatlined, home sales continued to increase, said Chris Caldwell, vice president of business banking at Mutual Bank.

The bank financed more than 100 new homeowners last year, and he said the bank was ready loan money for new business and homes to keep the economy going.

Todd Donati, director of Muncie's Redevelopment Commission, also asked what partnerhips could happen to encourage more new homes. 

Muncie has thousands of vacant and abandoned homes, and Donati said new home construction was needed.

Hicks agreed new home construction could bring more people to the community. But quality of life is also a big drawing card and he warned that continue busing problems with Muncie Community School was one issue that could damage the community's image for a long time to come.

Kouns offered a view of most commercial and industrial sites throughout the community.

There was plenty of manfacuturing and warehouse activity last year with a 50,000 square foot expansion by Magna Power Train and a 50,000 square foot building constructed in Daleville.

The Downtown Industrial Center is 100 percent occupied along with an industrial building on Butterfield Road occupied by Abbey Candle.

Old obsolete buildings like the former Borg Warner plant in Muncie and the Indiana Glass plant in Dunkirk are beyond use, Kouns said, and developers pointed to the new $8 million industrial building constructed by local economic development alliance this summer, explain good space was in short supply.

McGalliard Road was obviously the prime commercial spot in 2013 with two auto dealership near Nebo, three national fast food chains, along with a express medical center and a new fitness center.

Kouns said even more development was proposed in 2014 with the Dicks' Sporting Goods commercial strip near Muncie Mall besides other development at the auto mall on McGalliard and Nebo.

As fewer properties are available Kouns predicted increase in both sale prices and leasing for McGalliard Road land that is the highest in the county.

Downtown commercial and office space also declined in 2013 with more new business and plans for more apartments.

The lofts at the Roberts Hotel will open in the spring and there's plans for 44 more apartments at Walnut and Wysor streets.

Kouns also said there would be even more growth downtown in 2014 with Ivy Tech expansion and construction of a new hotel next to the Horizon Connvention Center.

The housing market around Ball State is strong with recent construction of the Grove on McGalliard Road and the University Promenade in the University Village.

The newer apartments will put pressure on older properties near and farther from campus like on Bethel Avenue, although continued increase in enrollment will keep the demand for student housing high.

Lenders and realtors also lauded the public-private partnership between business and government that has fostered development and growth in the past two years.

That is important, given the growth of neighboring communities like Anderson, Noblesville and Kokomo, said realtors, who have to compete with those communities to sell homes.