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Construction blitz in full swing around Ball State

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With less than two weeks until the start of classes at Ball State University, businesses in Muncie that will cater to students are racing to complete their building projects.

The university itself is joining the construction blitz, with demolition of a former print shop on McKinley Avenue in advance of construction of a new hotel and training center.

With work on the huge Village Promenade project ongoing, as well as other, smaller projects underway, the start of the fall term isn't far away. Classes begin Aug. 18, which means an influx of thousands of students to campus housing and off-campus apartments and businesses.

When students return, they'll find a big change in the latter category: Village Promenade, a two-building, $55 million apartment and commercial development along University Avenue at Martin and Dill streets. Inside the west building is a $5 million city-owned parking garage. When students left in May, the buildings were still skeletal structures.

Despite delays, in part because of harsh winter weather, Village Promenade will be on time and ready for as many as 522 tenants in its 226 units, said Todd Donati, executive director of the Muncie Redevelopment Commission. The MRC oversaw construction of the city parking garage and helped Valparaiso developer IPA with the entire project.

"I have no doubts," Donati told The Star Press of Muncie on Monday. "I've been in the building." He went on to note that the larger, western-most building is virtually complete except for cleanup and installation of furniture.

Donati and IPA said residents will begin moving into Village Promenade on Aug. 16, two days after residence halls open at Ball State.

A Village Promenade representative said Monday that leasing for the apartment complex was "on target," with one building full and leases being signed for the second. The west building has 129 units, while the east building has 96.

Donati recently reported that remediation had been completed to treat a couple of dozen Village Promenade units that saw mold develop because of damp conditions during construction.

About 20,000 square feet of commercial space in the Village Promenade buildings — with tenants including a Brother's restaurant and bar, and Let's Spoon Muncie frozen yogurt, as well as other tenants including Domino's Pizza, Puerto Vallarta and what Donati called "a smoothie place and a hamburger place" — is still under construction. Brothers will open Oct. 10, IPA said, with Let's Spoon, Domino's and Puerto Vallarta opening "sometime in fall 2014."

Not far from Village Promenade, the university itself has work underway. Crews working for Ball State have demolished the McKinley Avenue building that had been home to Hiatt Printing for decades. In May, the university announced it had purchased, for $450,000, the Hiatt family property. It will be replaced by McKinley Commons, a $25 million hotel and hospitality industry education center.

"We're still working on some design issues that may affect the final timing and cost," Randy Howard, Ball State treasurer and vice president of business affairs, said in a statement. "We would like to start as quickly as possible, so we are clearing the land right now and, pending approval from City Council, we will begin some utility relocation, which is a long lead-time item in the project. That way, we'll be ready to move forward with the building construction either late this year or early in 2015."

Smaller projects are also in the works in the area. The Jimmy John's sandwich shop across the street from Village Promenade closed earlier this summer for extensive remodeling.

"We have a tentative open date of the 22nd," owner Steve Arnold said Monday. "We're a little behind schedule, but the contractor said he thinks he can make that date."

The opening of Village Promenade and businesses won't mean the end of construction in the area, however. The city plans substantial changes to two nearby streets. The Star Press previously reported that the city plans to redo Martin Street from University Avenue to White River Boulevard with new Muncie Sanitary District sewers and a rebuilt street, sidewalks and street lights.

Donati also said the city plans to convert North Street between Calvert and Dicks to one-way east with some angled parking.

New on-street parking adds to 330 spots in the city parking garage inside Village Promenade. More than 200 of those garage spots will be for Village Promenade residents. In all, 115 spots in the garage will be open for the public.

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