McKinley Commons: On the fast track at Ball State University

Construction of new $25 million hotel, convention center begins in fall

By Rick Yencer

MUNCIE, INDIANA (NEWS) - A new $25 hotel and convention accommodation on the Ball State campus begins construction this fall.

On Monday, the university moved quickly to demolish Hiatt Printing and the old CBX bookstore while getting local government to suspend its rules and abandon an alley on the site of the McKinley Commons.

The project is designed as a teaching facility for the hotel industry where students can live and learn about the accommodations business. And it was sidetracked last year as the university fought a losing battle over property rights with business owner Chris Hiatt.

After BSU President Jo Ann Gora retired, the Hiatt family proceeded to sell out their interest in the campus printing shop and the university took over the property in May.

Jim Lowe, director of engineering and operations at Ball State, told the Muncie City Council Monday night that he facility was back on track and the university wanted to vacate the last public land on  the block surrounded by McKinley, University, Calvert and Ashland where the new hotel and convention center would be built.

Not only did council bring the measure from the floor, members suspended rules on two separate readings and agreed to vacate the public land without further public hearing.

Council member Alison Quirk remarked that the university project was not in conflict with the city's efforts to build a new Courtyard by Marriott DWNTWN and next to the city convention center. She thought the community had the market for two such properties besides the dozen hotels now operating.

 The Mariott also will be training facility for those with disability to learn the hospitality business. Groundbreaking is set this summer as Ball State hopes to be in the ground by fall.

Lowe offered an 18 month construction schedule with opening in 2016. He also showed drawings that limit the building to the one block area with parking in the nearby campus garage across the street on Ashland.

Details about financing also have not been released as some wonder how much tax money will be spent on the university's hotel.

Tax money is being obligated DWNTWN for a new parking garage to serve the Mariott and convention center.

Council also considered 24 hour metered parking around the new Village Promenade that is expected to open on Aug. 16. The city also put public money into a parking garage for that apartment and retail complex on University east of Ball State.



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