On March 25, 2022, the Ball State University Board of Trustees took a major step to advance a long-term, phased revitalization plan for the Village, which is a business district along University Avenue near the campus.
The university has prioritized revitalizing the Village, which has experienced a slow, steady decline in recent years.
In Ball State’s ambitious strategic plan, Destination 2040: Our Flight Path, community engagement is one of the university’s primary goals. Implementing a long-term, phased plan to revitalize the Village is a key strategic imperative of that goal.
“The proposed partnership will re-establish the Village as a regional destination and reinforces the strong town-gown partnership between Ball State University and the City of Muncie,” said Mayor Dan Ridenour, who attended the Board of Trustees meeting. “This revitalization restores a true cultural district to the Village area that will serve the Muncie community and the entire region.”
The comprehensive plan includes a performing arts center for university events. This performing arts center will be the catalytic anchor for the commercial district, and the university’s investment in the center will leverage approximately $100 million in private investment.
Once this ambitious project is completed, the Village will provide a best-in-class, multigenerational district driven by arts and culture, entertainment, and innovation with new options in dining, retail, service, hospitality, living, and gathering.
The Board authorized Ball State President Geoffrey S. Mearns to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Fairmount Properties, a development firm with a proven record of successful campus-edge projects at institutions similar to Ball State. Fairmount Properties was selected after an extensive two-year review process.
“This important revitalization on the edge of our beautiful campus will attract community members from throughout our region, enhancing the appeal of our University and our city,” President Mearns said. “For residents, this work will enhance the quality of place in Muncie. And for businesses, this work will promote talent retention and spur economic growth. I am grateful to our trustees for their support for this vital initiative.”
The catalyst for the revitalization plan will be a performing arts center—located on the vacant land on the corner of McKinley and University avenues—that will attract people of all ages to the Village. The center will host more than 160 university performances and draw more than 35,000 attendees to the Village each year. The center will also host performances sponsored by local schools and other arts organizations.
“Given the importance of this work for our University and our community, we are pleased to partner with Fairmount Properties,” Board Chair Renae Conley said. “We believe Fairmount will provide us with the extensive experience to help us achieve our collective vision for the Village.”
The new performing arts center will consist of two new performance venues for Ball State Theatre and Dance students. Since 1996, the number of Theatre and Dance majors has more than doubled at Ball State, with close to 450 current students pursuing bachelor’s degrees in nine different academic programs. Traditionally, more than 1,500 students audition annually for approximately 40 spots in Ball State’s Theatre and Dance BFA performance programs.
As a result of the partnership with the university, Fairmount Properties will invest approximately $100 million to design and construct a best-in-class hotel, a mix of retailers and restaurants, innovation spaces for office and research use, and apartments and townhouses.
The living spaces will provide an attractive, convenient residential area for employees of Ball State, IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital, and other Muncie businesses.
“The proposed revitalization plan for the Village reflects years of planning and will be a game-changer for our community,” said Dr. Jeff Bird, President of IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital. “These are the type (sic) of community amenities we need to successfully recruit and retain talented employees in Muncie.”
After President Mearns executes the MOU, the university will finalize a development agreement with Fairmount Properties.
“Fairmount Properties is excited to be partnering with Ball State University,” said Randy Ruttenberg, founder and principal of Fairmount. The firm has completed more than $1.5 billion of mixed-use redevelopment projects since 1998, the majority of which has been through partnerships with universities.
“Since responding to the University’s RFP, our team has worked diligently with the Ball State leadership team to refine our strategy. We met with various community stakeholders over the past year, and we connected with many current merchants and property owners in the Village. We will use a district-wide approach to elevate the Village, and we look forward to collaborating with existing merchants and future tenants to do so,” he concluded.
The university anticipates that the development agreement will be completed by the end of 2022, with construction tentatively scheduled to begin in 2024.
Rendering courtesy of Ball State University.