New parking garage in DWNTWN Muncie IN will help hotel, convention industry

Construction begins in fall to build 400-space garage next to convention center

By Rick Yencer

MUNCIE, INDIANA (NEWS) - The last piece of a huge DWNTWN development including a Courtyard by Mariott Hotel was unveiled Thursday with a new 400-space parking garage.

 That $8 million cost will ultimately be carried by food and beverage taxpayers after five years while local partners like visitors, convention, redevelopment and other private interests picking up the lease immediately.

Mayor Dennis Tyler announced the latest DWNTWN projects along with construction partners Garmong Construction, and HWC Engineering, both of Indianapolis, that will build the three-story, 140,000 square foot facility next to the convention center.

 Tyler said the cost was high given that the garage had to accommodate special needs people who will work and come to the hotel. 

General Hotels of Indianapolis, is partnering with the ARC of Indiana that is making the hotel a training facility for those with disability. As Muncie City Hall uses people who work at Hillcroft Center to maintain and clean the building, others with disability will work at the hotel.

Dedicated parking for workers will be included in the garage and there also will be bike racks and electric plug ins for hybrid vehicles.

Jeff Schroeder, Garmong vice president, said the garage would be covered in brick and have an open concept making it inviting and lighted.  Garmong just built the city a parking garage at the new Village Promenade near Ball State University and is the builder of choice for the community economic development program for shell buildings.

Garmong pledges to use local labor and contractors in the construction as it did in the University Village, and anticipated as many as 400 employees in the job during the next year working along workers building the hotel.

The garage with its 400 spaces split between public and hotel parking combined with more than 900 on street spaces recently created by the city will provide enough parking for the anticipated increase in convention and tourism traffic.

The convention center has suffered in recent years after the Roberts Hotel closed, leaving no hotel rooms nearby. Funded by the county's food the beverage tax, the convention center expanded its food service and continued as other venues like Cornerstone Center for the Arts, the Delaware County Fairgrounds and Ball State University competed for visitor and convention business.

But only the convention center gets every dime of food and beverage tax, conservatively estimated at $2 million a year, and Tyler is willing to continue to commit that money to the DWNTWN convention center.

Joann McKinney, convention center director, estimated business would go up over 40 percent with a hotel next door. That $25 million development is expected to break ground this summer and be the biggest hotel with 125 rooms in Delaware County.

Given the convention center is still paying off bonds on a 20-year expansion, it will be another five years before those bonds are retired. The city plans to issue new bonds and let food and beverage tax cover the garage expense.

There's been no determination whether the garage will have pay or free parking. 

Tyler anticipated other development would come to the area near the CSX railroad at High and Victor streets.

The city just invested $2 million into a music venue, Canan Commons, that saw America's Hometown Band play on Thursday. And the city continues to push the railroad and federal government for a quiet zone to lessen the impact of more than 25 trains a day traveling a block within the new hotel and convention center.