GREAT SUMMARY OF THE LOCAL COMMERCIAL MARKET FOR 2014 — Steve
The Star Press, MUNCIE – It turns out that 2014 was a good year to spend money in Muncie.
Not just the money spent by customers at local businesses or by local businesses themselves to grow, but by outside investors who thought Muncie was ripe for an influx of their money.
How much money? Although it is one of Muncie’s oldest shopping centers, Northwest Plaza — at the busy corner of Wheeling Avenue and McGalliard Road — was sold in 2014 to BC Wood Properties of Lexington, Kentucky.
For $24 million.
Why did the company buy the 50-year-old Northwest from its most recent owner, a company from Fort Wayne?
“We like the center, we like its market-dominant location,” King Offutt, president of BC Wood, told The Star Press in May. “We like its proximity to Ball State. All the tenants in the center do well. It’s a substantial investment in Muncie. We’ve been to Muncie many times. We really like the center and really like the town.”
Northwest Plaza isn’t the only example of multi-million-dollar investment in Muncie in 2014. Not long after BC Wood purchased Northwest, McGalliard Mall Shops, where Panera Bread and Buffalo Wild Wings are located, was sold for nearly $9 million.
There’s always some turnover in commercial real estate, but 2014 created the impression that companies from elsewhere were happy to do business in Muncie.
Changes, including names
Some of the biggest investment in Muncie in 2014 was visible from a distance because it involved construction, including the $60-million Village Promenade development near Ball State University and the new $12 million Muncie Marketplace, where Dick’s Sporting Goods, Michaels and other stores have opened with more tenants to follow.
Longtime retirement community Westminster Village announced it would complete $17 million in renovations and additions to its northwestside facility. And even while Village Promenade went up across University Avenue, the Uni-Mart building, dating to the first half of the 20th century, continued to attract new tenants, including Juniper, a women’s clothing store.
There’s no development with more potential to have an impact on Muncie than the Courtyard by Marriott hotel and hospitality industry training center for the intellectually disabled, going up on the south edge of downtown. The hotel, when you also count a railroad quiet zone and city parking garage, has a $40-million price tag but could have a greater impact for years to come.
At times in 2014, the change was skin deep. Navient became the new name of Sallie Mae in Muncie and in other Indiana offices. The student loan originator spun off its debt collection and management division, which was renamed Navient. The Muncie facility, where as many as 900 people work, got a new sign but continued the mission it has fulfilled since it opened in 2006.
And the bad news …
Not all of 2014’s business news was good news for Muncie and Delaware County.
Kmart, a longtime retailer, closed its northside Muncie store in December after struggling nationally. The closing followed the closing of a Marsh supermarket in the same area, east of Muncie Mall.
National banking player Chase built a new branch at Northwest Plaza but closed two others, downtown and in Lyndenbrook.
Although Brevini Wind was predicted to create 450 jobs when the gearbox maker was announced in 2008, the company in early 2014 employed fewer than 60 people in its two-building complex in western Delaware County. It’s possible Delaware County officials will ask Brevini Wind to repay some of the $1.4 million the county provided to the company. In the meantime, a $5-million rail spur to connect the industrial park to a rail line a mile away has been completed.
Jarden Home Brands, the home products spin-off of Ball Corporation, announced it would move out of its Daleville Headquarters and relocate in Fishers. The move will mean the end of operations in Daleville and the relocation of 100 jobs. The company said it would maintain 120 jobs at its manufacturing facility in Muncie.
DIY Group, a longtime Muncie packager of commercial products, announced it would lay off 261 employees — about half its workforce.
But other companies added, rather than subtracted, employees in 2014, including Mursix and Magna Powertrain.
And the future could hold promise for some former centers of local industry and commerce. The new owner of Frank Foundry, which shut down in 1985, wants to follow cleanup of the East Eighth Street property with composting operations and, ultimately, agriculture production.
Other industrial sites, from the BorgWarner Automotive plant to the 60-acre vacant lot where Chevrolet operated until 2006 to the former Indiana Steel and Wire property on Muncie’s east side, await a brownfields redeveloper with the vision and the resources to put them back to work.
Contact Keith Roysdon at 765-213-5828 and follow him on Twitter: @keithroysdon