Courtyard at Marriott brand for new downtown Muncie IN hotel

Muncie Mayor Dennis Tyler shakes hands with Linda Muckway, a local advocate for those with disabilities.

Hotel has training for those with disability in hospitality industry

By Rick Yencer

MUNCIE, INDIANA (NEWS) - The first hotel of its kind in the United States to train those with a disability will open in downtown Muncie in 2015.

And the impact of the $25 million, 150-room hotel will be huge. Branded Courtyard by Marriott - with a Thr3e Wise Men brewing company restaurant and a new city parking garage - the project will create put $3 million into the local economy yearly besides add $1.5 million over five years in tax revenue.

Gov. Mike Pence joined Mayor Dennis Tyler and The Arc of Indiana in announcing the breathtaking development that will bring a hotel back to the downtown. This is new life for the Horizon Convention Center next door .

More than 100 people attended the gathering for the project that Pence called "first of its kind" in the United States.

The Arc, a statewide advocate for people with disabilities, chose Muncie after working with Mayor Tyler, a former state lawmaker, to carry out their dream of establishing the first hospitality training institute for people with disabilities.

The hotel will be a teaching facility, providing higher education in hospitality as well as the food service industry. Unemployment is as high as 85 percent in the disability community, and government leaders said the property would provide a tremendous opportunity for the disabled workforce.

Muncie is well known for its work helping those with disability with Hillcroft and Cannon industry programs. Tyler, who has a grandchild with autism, was very emotional when talking about helping the Arc accomplish its dream - besides helping those in need.

The vision for the training center and hotel came from Jeff and Jan Huffman, who have a child with Down's Syndrome.  Jeff Huffman talked about his love for the old Roberts Hotel across the street that is being converted into apartments for the elderly. And he also saw the need for more work opportunities provided to people with disability.

Kim Dodson, associate executive director of the Arc, presided over the event, and was thankful for the support from the city and state. Indiana put up $5 million to jump start the project and the city plans a $8 million, 400-space parking garage to serve the hotel and convention center,

"We are proud to be in a state where economic development opportunities include people with disabilities," said Dodson. She also said she apprecaited the governor's commitment to developing job skills for people with a disability so they can have employment.

Courtyard by Marriott also was the Arc's first choice because their training program was exceptional as well as other professional support offered by the company. General Hotels Corp., Indianapolis, is the managing company for Marriott.

Vicki Veach, downtown development director and Joann McKinney, executive director of the convention center, also were recognized for their work to make the hotel a reality.

Tyler said Ball State and Ivy Tech also would help with training and education programs. As he told the crowd, "We are here," referring to more than two years working on making the hotel happen.

The construction is expected to create hundreds of jobs for laborers, electricians, plumbers and other skilled labor. Kevin Cope, business agent for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 855, hoped local labor would be used on building the hotel, training facility and parking garage. 

Local labor was used on a parking garage for the Village Promenade and Tyler, a retired Muncie firefighter, has worked with developers to ensure local labor sees work on local construction. That $60 million project is expected to open this fall.

More information about the hotel and facility can be found at www.arcind.org/teaching-hotel