DWNTWN Muncie readies for 2014 season and Courtyard by Marriott

First Thursday trending about new hotel, eatery and more

By Rick Yencer

MUNCIE, INDIANA (NEWS) -  It's those feet on the the ground that Genny Gordy cannot wait to see as DWNTWN Muncie prepares for the new Courtyard by Marriott next to the Horizon Convention Center.

Thousands of convention goers with now a place to stay DWNTWN is what Muncie's art community like Gordy Fine Art and Framing, The Artist Within and Gallery 308 to name some, anticipate the biggest renaissance seen in many years.

The 2013 season DWNTWN was all abuzz Thursday night as mild weather after the Great Winter of 14 began to fade,

Gordy and her husband, Brian, who had the framing shop since 1988, recall when the Roberts Hotel was still open and the new convention center was built, brought thousands downtown.

Some of those visitors returned recently when Ball State partnered with DWNTWN development to bring partners downtown.

Those feet on the ground will be welcome to artists and other business that have come after DWNTWN development began a new marketing campaign last year in advance of the hotel announcement this week.

Vicki Veach, DWNTWN development director, told members of Muncie's Redevelopment Commission on Thursday that five new businesses like a new fitness center, and restaurants came in advance of the new 150-room hotel that will be a training facility for those with disability that will open in fall of 2015.

And she said a new coffee shop could open at Walnut and Charles soon along with others interested in DWNTWN locations.

The 2013 season of DWNTWN with concerts, big events and other traditional gatherings kicks off next week with the annual Saint Patrick's Day Parade on March 15. That 6 p.m. start brings hundreds with marching bands, community leaders and others celebrating the Irish event.

The annual Muncie Gras party with music, and entertainment is March 22 with more than 20 bands and thousands expected to attend.

Veach also said the Three Trails Concert series also would be back at Canan Commons next to the Muncie YMCA with Chicago blues great Little Ed and The Blue Imperials, violinist Michael Cleavland and blues singer Bela Fleck.

And the popular RibFest will be Aug. 30-31 that features some of the best ribs in the state besides the Oct. 2 ArtsWalk that also attracts dozens of artists, writers and musicians.

Mayor Dennis Tyler, who was instrumental in bringing The Arc of Indiana and its training facility and hotel to Muncie, indicated local government had lots of infrastructure work to do in advance and with the new hotel.

 The city plans an $8 million parking garage with 200 spaces with about half leased to the Courtyard by Marriott.

 And the Muncie Sanitary District is planning a $1.5 million storm sewer to drain the downtown with new construction.

And Tyler said the city planned to repave most major streets downtown and make Walnut more accessible to those with disabilities, according to federal standards.

"You are going to see a whole new downtown," said the mayor, anticipating the new hotel opening with the 150th anniversary of Muncie. 

The town was organized in 1865 after the Civil War on a settlement along White River founded by Goldsmith Gilbert. Natural gas in the late 19th century brought industry to the community like the Ball Brothers and their glassworks. By the 20th Century, Muncie became an auto manufacturing town with new inventions like the Delco battery and Warner Gear transmission. And in the 21st Century, the community is driven by higher education at Ball State University and health care at IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital.

But as some people in DWNTWN Muncie Thursday night recall, Muncie is still Middletown USA, a symbol of the country just like having the first training hotel for  those with disability in the United States.