What is Progress for Downtown Muncie?

As a side note, while sitting in the public planning session for downtown this past week, one thought kept coming to mind over and over…why not Muncie?

During the meeting, there was one statistic that was more relevant than any other to me, we have too much retail space. According to the figures presented by NYC consultants, a community target for retail space is 17 square feet per capita, and our existing retail space is 25 square feet per capita.

In other words, Muncie suffers from way too much retail space – we are overbuilt.

Many things attributed to this overage, but one 15 minute drive along McGalliard will make you wonder why we allowed that kind of development to occur. We have a universal plan for Delaware County, but it would seem that our real estate developers were in charge of our planning process.

Maybe that should serve as a clue (warning) as we pursue a new master plan for downtown Muncie.

Adding to our already gluttonous supply of retail space, each month more consumers are shopping via the internet and have their purchases sent directly to their homes bypassing the retail outlets. There is no reason to believe this trend will decline thus creating less demand for retail storefronts.

What downtown needs are creative businesses – the consultants agreed.

In the publication below, Tactical Urbanism II, the writers present several new terms: open streets, play streets, guerilla gardening, pop-up retail, micro-mixing, camps, etc.

These are the creative ideas that should be used for both the Village area and downtown. They will not come from the same people who created McGalliard Road. We need the young entrepreneurs and urban planners to step forward and help with this project.

Scheduling a charrette, and open house, for after BSU recessed for the summer was poor planning on the City of Muncie’s behalf – we need the vision, creativity, and commitment from the future residents of Muncie. It’s not an immersion project, it’s asking the students what Muncie needs to keep them here after graduation.

As for recommendations to fund these projects – its past time the City and Delaware County Council set up a committee to study “payment in lieu of taxes” (PILOTs), and plan for 2013 and beyond. It’s time all our neighbors contribute toward reinventing Muncie – the nonprofits have just as much stake in our future as the citizens and businesses who live here and pay taxes.

The local banks could underwrite a bond, and future PILOT fees from non-profits could be the source of repayment.

It’s time to get creative, and there are over 120 communities throughout the USA who have implemented PILOT fees, and more are starting this year. We’ve even spoken with the Director of Tax Policy for the City of Boston, and he has offered to help city and county officials.

The NYC consulting group spoke about creative businesses in our downtown – the concept of tactical urbanism has many of those ideas already being implemented in other communities, and they work.

Take a look…why not Muncie?

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Todd Smekens

Journalist, consultant, publisher, and servant-leader with a passion for truth-seeking. Enjoy motorcycling, meditation, and spending quality time with my daughter and rescue hound. Spiritually-centered first and foremost. Lived in multiple states within the USA and frequent traveler to the mountains.
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