Abandoned Factories

Reuse of Abandoned Factories

The initiative, “Reuse of Abandoned Factories,” relates to the MAP Initiative 4: Creating Attractive and Desirable Places. It specifically relates to Action 3, “Continue and expand the blight removal program.” Historically, Thomas Park/Avondale (TPA) was an industrial neighborhood. However, as industries left Muncie, large parcels of land are now underutilized. TPA is no exception. The area suffers from a high number of vacant factories. By restoring vacant and blighted abandoned factories, the neighborhood will have more attractive gather spaces as well as a strong connection to the area’s history.


Figure 1 – Photo of an abandoned factory in TPA. Photo – Cody Hedges












This initiative idea was sent by a local resident via email to Lisa Dunaway.


There are a number of vacant and abandoned factories in TPA. Despite the issues associated with vacant industrial land, there is a lot of potential for these sites as redevelopment opportunities. These factories could also be adaptively reused for other purposes besides industry. Adaptive reuse refers to the process of reusing an old building for a purpose outside of what the building was originally designed for. This is currently a popular redevelopment method for housing, restaurants, and small businesses.


Figure 2 – A before and after image of a building in TPA that could be adaptively reused. Source- Beth Neville




The neighborhood might consider forming a committee to implement this initiative. This committee will need to find out who owns these sites. Some of these sites may be abandoned, which means that it may be impossible to contact the owners. In this case, the neighborhood association will need to turn to the city of Muncie. But if the owners can be contacted, the committee could see what their plans are for the site. The owners may be willing to donate the site or sell it to a developer, the city, or the neighborhood association. Owner information can be found on the County Assessor’s website.

Depending on the information gathered and decisions made during the first step, the committee may need to get the sites rezoned because the abandoned factories will be zoned as industrial. The rezoning request can be found on the Application for Rezoning webpage and the Planning Commission will rezone these sites according to the determined future use. This is a rolling application process and deadlines occur every month.

Once rezoning occurs, the committee has a few options. They can begin reaching out to potential partners who could utilize the space, like craft brewers, apartment developers, nonprofits, and/or the city. Many groups, especially those not from Muncie, may not know about the site. The residents of the neighborhood will need to advocate for site redevelopment to the city and any potential redevelopers.

If the committee decides to pursue ownership of the land, there are resources available to help redevelop the site. Once the committee owns the land, they could start advertising it to potential developers and businesses. One of the most common resources used by real estate developers is Loopnet. Here, the committee could list any sites in the neighborhood that residents want redeveloped.

Furthermore, the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority currently prioritizes the adaptive reuse of vacant buildings into affordable housing communities. There are low-income housing tax credits available to developers who redevelop these sites as affordable housing. If the site is a designated historical site, there are additional tax-credits available to developers. The neighborhood could contact real estate developers to make them aware of these redevelopment opportunities.

It is important to note that many former factories may be brownfields, a site which may contain potential hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants. Mediating these hazards will be the responsibility of the city of Muncie and/or the developer as exposure to these contaminants can pose health risks. The neighborhood association does not have the tools to mediate any brownfield sites located within the community boundaries. However, the City of Muncie has received a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Brownfield Community-Wide Assessment Grant to assess the brownfields around the city. Officially-designated brownfield sites in Delaware County can be found on the Delaware County GIS website.


The City of Muncie would be responsible for remediating brownfields.

The neighborhood might consider forming a committee to implement this initiative. In partnership with the residents, the committee will need to decide what type of redevelopment is best suited for the neighborhood. Then, the resident council will need to find out who owns these sites. The resident committee will be responsible for keeping the initiative moving forward based on the needs and desires of the neighborhood.


The following map indicates the location of current vacant factories in TPA. Most of the sites are located near the rail line in the northern area of the neighborhood.


Figure 3 – Map of abandoned industrial sites in Thomas Park/Avondable

Case studies

Case Study: Urban Organics

Urban Organics is a for-profit business that redeveloped a former St. Paul factory that has been closed since 1997. The company is using this old industrial site to grow vegetables and fish. The crops are grown indoors without sunlight or dirt. Instead, Urban Organics has developed an aquaponics system that uses the nutrient-rich wastewater from the tilapia-tanks to fertilize the plants. The city contributed $300,000 in grants and loans, but the rest of the redevelopment costs were covered by the company. It took 2 years to redevelop the factory, and despite the challenges associated with reusing former factories, there are countless other benefits. Thick masonry walls help hold in heat during the winter, the utility infrastructure already exists on-site, and the location is ideal to distribute to urban residents. Urban Organics is now attracting additional commercial neighbors who are also interested in redeveloping former factories in the neighborhood.¹


Figure 4 – Vegetables being grown by Urban Organics in the former factory. Source- http://www.fastcoexist.com/

Case Study: Ambler Boiler House Conversion

In Ambler, Pennsylvania, a 19th century industrial plant has been converted into a modern office building. It had been vacant since the Great Depression, but a group of realty advisors bought the site because of its proximity to a rail stop. However, the building was heavily contaminated by asbestos causing construction to take about two years. The contamination was remediated by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection with the help of additional state grants and loans. After the remediation efforts, only the brick shell and steel roof remained.  The LEED certified building opened in 2012 and attracts a mix of tenants the building.²


Figure 5 – Ambler Boiler House conversion Source – http://www.bdcnetwork.com/.



Indiana Landmarks

Indiana Landmarks is a nonprofit organization fighting to defend architecturally unique, historically significant, and community cherished properties. They have a handful of grants available for historic structures. Nonprofits are eligible to apply and must submit a grant application. Applicants must have a four-to-one match, meaning that ever $4 from Indiana Landmarks must have a $1 local funding match. Grants must not exceed $5,000 in any three year period.

Indiana Landmarks Eastern Regional Office
Huddleston Farmhouse
838 National Road
PO Box 284
Cambridge City, IN 47327
Phone: (765) 478-3172
Email: east@indianalandmarks.org
Website: http://www.indianalandmarks.org/resources/pages/grantsloans.aspx

Department of Natural Resources – Historic Preservation & Archaeology

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources Historic Preservation office has one grant program available for historic preservation.  Local governments, educational institutions, and non-profits are all eligible to apply. The maximum grant award is $50,000 and the Department of Natural Resources requires local matching funds.

The Department of Natural Resources also has tax credit programs available for individuals who own historic properties. More information can be found here.

Contact: Malia D. Vanaman – Associate Grants Manager
Phone: (317) 232-1646
Email: mvanaman@dnr.in.gov
Website: http://www.in.gov/dnr/historic/3671.htm 

Ball Brothers Foundation

The foundation provides money for initiatives related to Quality of Place. Applying for grants takes place online and follows two cycles. Tax-exempt organizations and institutions are eligible to apply and there is no limit to the award amount.

Ball Rapid Grants

A limited number of rapid grants are designed to provide immediate funding to organizations for the following type of needs, but not limited to:

  • Continue a project
  • Provide professional development
  • Buy equipment or materials for a project
  • Travel to meet representatives to advance ideas for a project
  • Formulate a project idea
  • Carry out a mandated law or event
  • Seed money to begin a new project

Organizations can request up to $5,000 for a rapid grant. Applications are accepted between February 1 and November 30. Requests will be immediately reviewed immediately by BBF staff, and organizations are typically notified of the decision within four business days of submission. Awards will be issues upon receipt of the signed Mutual Understanding Agreement.

222 S. Mulberry Street
Muncie, Indiana 47305-2802
Phone: (765) 741-5500
Fax: (765) 741-5518
Contact: Donna Munchel, Grant Process Manager
Email: donna.munchel@ballfdn.org
Website: www.ballfdn.org/

Lilly Endowment Fund

The Lilly Endowment exists to support the causes of religion, education and community development. The Endowment affords special emphasis to projects that benefit young people and promote leadership education and financial self-sufficiency in the nonprofit, charitable sector. It supports three areas: Religion, Education and Community development. Those that meet the criteria for consideration proceed to the appropriate division for review, then to the corporate officers, and finally to the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors considers grants in March, June, September, November and December. The grant review process takes three to six months. All grant seekers receive written notification of decisions.

Program Office
Lilly Endowment Inc.
P.O. Box 88068
Indianapolis, IN 46208-0068
Website: http://www.lillyendowment.org/guidelines.html

Industrial Recovery Tax Credit

The Industrial Recovery Tax Credit is for communities that have old industrial sites. The grant money is given to businesses that want to relocate to the area to renovate the site, but is also available to communities so that they can renovate the site and attract new potential businesses.

Website: http://www.iedc.in.gov/incentives/industrial-recovery-tax-credit/home

Additional Contact Information

Department of Community Development
300 N. High Street
Muncie, IN 47305-1639
Phone: (765) 747-4825
Fax:(765) 747-4898
Contact: Zane Bishop, Resident Program Administrator
Email: zbishop@cityofmuncie.com

Indiana Brownfields Program
Indiana Finance Authority
100 N. Senate Avenue, Rm. 1275
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Phone: (317) 234-0235
Contact: Michele Oertel, Federal Funding & Community Relations Coordinator
Website: http://www.in.gov/ifa/brownfields/

Additional websites of interest

Ten Repurposed Industrial Buildings that were Previously Abandoned

Redeveloping New York Factories Into Small Business Hubs

Can Detroit’s Vacant Buildings Become Community Assets?

Redeveloping a Former Factory Building in Kokomo


¹”This Old Factory– Now Full of Fish and Kale– Is Revitalizing a Neighborhood,” last modified May 21, 2014, http://www.fastcoexist.com/3029452/this-old-factory-now-full-of-fish-and-kale-is-revitalizing-a-neighborhood/1

²”From Power Plant to Office: Ambler Boiler House Conversion,” last modified Oct. 9, 2013, http://www.bdcnetwork.com/power-plant-office-ambler-boiler-house-conversion