The city of Muncie spent $8 million on a downtown parking garage but few people use it.
On a recent day, only 60 of the 410 parking spaces in the four-level garage, located behind the Horizon Convention Center and Courtyard hotel, were in use.
Officials are hoping a series of way-finding signs will help people find the garage, which opened last fall, as well as the convention center and hotel.
The parking garage was part of an overall $40 million development that included the $29 million hotel, the city garage and quiet-zone railroad crossing work intended to lessen train horn noise.
But because of the compact size of the development, the garage is tucked away behind where the hotel and convention center meet in a new enclosed walkway.
The hotel opened in December and the garage was open even earlier, although rarely used.
During a visit to the garage by The Star Press in Muncie, the 60-plus cars in the garage around 9 a.m. on a weekday were for the most part on the first level of the garage, with a few on the ramp leading to the second level. No cars were parked on the second or third levels or the open-air fourth level.
The general public is supposed to enter the garage from Seymour or Victor streets, although drivers can approach the garage from Liberty, Victor and Seymour.
Officials acknowledge that the entrance isn't immediately apparent, however. That's why Muncie Redevelopment Commission Director Todd Donati met last week with Mayor Dennis Tyler to get approval for way-finding signage that would be placed around the downtown area.
The signs, which would be similar to directional signs already in use around the city, would identify the hotel, convention center and/or the garage and would be placed at several spots.
Among its 410 spaces, the garage has 25 spaces for people with disabilities on the first floor and two spaces equipped for charging electric cars.
Donati said about 160-plus spaces in the garage are reserved for the hotel and the remaining 240 are available to the public. Parking is free for now; officials have not yet said when the garage might begin charging for public parking or how much.
Officials think the garage will see more use during well-attended conventions at the Horizon Convention Center — and when people know how to find the garage.
The downtown garage is the second built by the city in recent years. A city garage is at the core of the Village Promenade building along University Avenue in the Village near Ball State University. That garage, which opened in 2014, has 330 spaces and cost about $5 million, cheaper than the $8 million downtown garage because the Village garage required no facade since it is surrounded by apartments.