Ball State to build new performing arts center to pair with near-campus development
By Stephanie Wiechmann
Ball State University says it wants to create an arts destination district in its near-campus Village neighborhood. To do that, it’s anchoring new business development there with a new on-campus performance venue for theater, dance, and local events.
Development starts on-campus at the corner of McKinley and University avenues with a performing arts center. It will have two public performance spaces and be used by the Department of Theatre and Dance, as well as welcoming local school and arts events.
Ball State says the department has more than doubled its students since 1996, serving more than 400 students and hosting a very competitive Bachelor of Fine Arts program.
University president Geoffrey Mearns says the center reaffirms a commitment to arts while supporting new economic development.
“With Emens Auditorium, with the university theaters, with Sursa Hall, with the David Owsley Museum of Arts, we already are the arts and culture center for all of east central Indiana. And this is another way in which we can elevate that commitment.”
The center will also be paired with a hotel and arts-themed restaurant, run by outside companies.
Next door in the near-campus Village business area, Ohio development firm Fairmount Properties will spend $100 million to build out four more spaces. Plans include space for restaurants, retail, and innovation, and an outdoor event space.
And there are plans for new apartments and townhouses aimed at attracting Ball State and IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital employees.
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All that fits with Muncie Mayor Dan Ridenour’s efforts to increase economic development and housing options in the city.
“Our real estate market is tight. People want to live here. We’re looking at 70 percent who have moved into those new apartments downtown worked here but didn’t live here. So this goes a long way to help with that particular situation.”
It also partly fulfills plans announced in 2012 by then-university president Jo Ann Gora. She wanted a Ball State-run hotel and restaurant on McKinley and University. After an eminent domain case with the lone local business located there, Ball State bought the final lot it needed in 2014 for that project. But it was canceled by the next university president when Gora retired.
On Friday, Ball State and Fairmount Properties signed what’s called a “memorandum of understanding” to develop the performing arts center and Village land. Design work can now begin, with the hope for some plans to come before Ball State trustees at the end of the year. Approvals of all kinds are needed, including from the Indiana Commission for Higher Education for the performing arts center.
Construction is scheduled to begin in 2024. Mearns says the first performances in the new space could begin as early as fall of 2025.