The “Vacant Lots” initiative relates to the MAP Initiative 4: Creating Attractive and Desirable Places. The goal of this action is to remove and/or rehabilitate all blighted properties for redevelopment purposes. It relates specifically to Action 3: Continue and expand the blight removal program. After blighted homes are demolished, a neighborhood may be left with an abundance of vacant lots. Like many neighborhoods in Muncie, TPA suffers from a significant number of vacant lots. These vacant lots are currently underutilized properties, but moving forward, they could become a major asset for the neighborhood.
This initiative was sent by a resident to Lisa Dunaway via email.
Vacant lots create a sense of emptiness in a neighborhood, and poorly-maintained lots can detract from other beautification efforts. Vacant lots are often a sign of disinvestment and may actually discourage developers and private businesses from investing in the neighborhood. However, vacant lots can also be major assets for communities that take advantage of these spaces. By maintaining and developing vacant lots, TPA can create community spaces and attract additional investment.
Former GM Plant
The neighborhood has a particularly difficult vacant lot to redevelop—the former General Motors Plant. The 70 acre site has been vacant since 2006 when the plant closed, but redevelopment plans have started moving forward. 6 of the acres will be transformed into athletic fields by the Ross Community Center. Construction of the site is expected to begin mid-2016. 60 acres are still available for redevelopment and can be purchased through RACER trust.¹
The City of Muncie prioritizes the creation of pocket parks. Pocket parks are simply small parks open to the public. An example is Fireman’s Park at the corner of Willard Street and Hoyt Avenue. Neighborhood associations interested in creating a pocket park can work with the Muncie Redevelopment Commission (MRC) to create pocket parks in vacant lots. Neighborhood associations must attend an informational meeting, enter into a memorandum of agreement with MRC, and obtain letters of support from neighboring property owners. The city has provided an informational document on their website for more information.
MRC is responsible for acquiring abandoned properties throughout the city. The organization temporarily owns and maintains these properties so that individuals, developers, and not-for-profit organizations can redevelop them. Interested parties can acquire properties through MRC. Those interested in the site must commit to returning the property to productive use. The commission will either sell or grant the property to the interested party.
Individuals interested in owning vacant side lots next to their homes can apply for ownership through MRC. Residents must bid on the property. More information can be found here. If the neighboring vacant lot is owned by MRC, interested individuals can apply using this form.
After obtaining ownership of the site, the Thomas Park/Avondale Neighborhood Association (TPANA) can move forward with creating a pocket park. Pocket parks can help create a welcoming environment for residents and visitors as well as provide community green space for gatherings. In order to move forward with implementing a pocket park, the community must commit to being involved. One of the most difficult aspects of creating neighborhood parks is actually the day-to-day maintenance. Once the community commits, a site must be selected. A map of potential sites can be found below. Next a design must be created for the park. Finally, the neighborhood association will need to find partners, donors, and funding sources. Once all of these steps are taken, TPANA can plan a volunteer day to build and create the park.
TPANA should consider creating a committee to develop and maintain pocket parks.
Individuals interested in owning neighboring vacant lots will be responsible for buying the lots they want to own.
The first map shows the location of vacant lots throughout TPA.
The second shows a suitability map for potential pocket park development. It shows where current parks in the neighborhood are located. Vacant lots located more than ¼ of a mile from a neighborhood park were prioritized. These areas of the neighborhood have less access to parks and open space than areas closer to the current parks, which is why these areas are prioritized. Finally, the suitability map indicates mid-sized lots. Successful pocket parks require a certain amount of space, but also cannot be too large because the neighborhood association will be responsible for maintenance. The suitability map below shows in green which lots are more than ¼ of a mile from a park and an appropriate size for a pocket park.
Case Study: Blaine/Southeast Playground
In the fall of 2014, Ball State urban planning students worked with the Blaine/Southeast (BSE) neighborhood. After the planning process, BSE began implementing their playground initiative. They secured a $15,000 grant from KABOOM!, a nonprofit dedicated to ensuring that all children have the opportunity to play. Residents formed a playground committee to ensure that the initiative would continue to progress. They first worked to clean the site, located at 1215 S. Brotherton Street. With the help of 20 volunteers, the site was cleared of debris and excessive vegetation. With the help of the former Park’s Department Superintendent, the committee selected the playground equipment.
The neighborhood association created a GoFundMe page, a crowd funding site, in order to cover some of the additional costs. On October 16, 2015, the playground was completed.²
Case Study: Old West End Community Circle Park
In 2015, the Old West End Neighborhood Association (OWENA) redeveloped a vacant lot into a pocket park at the southwest corner of Cherry and Main Streets. Situated on a single parcel, the Community Circle Park includes brick sidewalks, herb gardens, benches, a sculpture, and a pergola. OWENA worked with Ball State landscape architecture students, the City of Muncie, the Ball Brothers Foundation (BBF), and others. BBF granted $5,000 to the project through one of their quality of place initiative grants.³
KaBOOM helps communities throughout the country create playspace projects. They offer different grant programs to match community needs. Applicants must either own the land or have permission to build on the selected site.
The Build it with KaBOOM! Grant provides funding as well as a project manager that helps the community through the 5-12 week planning process. Grants applications are accepted on a rolling basis and are not geographically limited. More information can be found here
The Build it Yourself Grants are award between $15,000 and $20,000 to be used for purchasing playground equipment. Awardees go through a self-guided planning process and must build the playground within one year. Groups must spend $24,000 to $40,000 on playground equipment, meaning that additional funding must be acquired from outside sources. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis throughout the year.
4301 NW Connecticut Avenue
Washington, DC 20008
Phone: (202) 659-0215
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 by BBF staff and organizations are typically notified of the decision within four business days of submission. Awards will be issued upon receipt of the signed Mutual Understanding Agreement.
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. 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.
Lilly Endowment Inc.
P.O. Box 88068
Indianapolis, IN 46208-0068
Industrial Recovery Tax Credit
The Industrial Recovery Tax Credit is for communities that have old industrial sites, such as the old GM site. The grant money is given to businesses that want to relocate to the area to renovate the site, and is also available to communities so that they can renovate the site, and attract new potential businesses. Renovating the old GM transmission plant site would lead to more economic development possibilities because by renovating the site and making it more attractive, and up to development standards, another factory or development could move into the area to provide jobs that were lost when the plant closed.
Shovel Ready Program
The Shovel Ready Program is designed to market former industrial sites, and vacant land for development, while illustrating the communities’ commitment to economic development. The former GM transmission plant site is a perfect location for economic development. By showing potential businesses and developers the prime space of land, the neighborhood could regain the jobs that were lost when the GM plant closed.
Contact: Brad L. Moore, Shovel Ready Project Manager
Phone: (317) 233-6796
Department of Community Development
300 N. High St. City Hall
Muncie, IN 47305-1639
Phone: (765) 747-4825
Fax: (765) 747-4898
Contact: Zane Bishop, Resident Program Administrator
Muncie Redevelopment Commission Neighborhood Investment Committee
300 N High Street, 3rd Floor
Muncie, IN 47305
Phone: (765) 747-4825
Fax: (765) 747-4898
Contact: Brad King
Muncie Parks Department
1800 S Grant Street
Muncie, IN 47303
Contact: Harvey Wright, Parks Superintendent
Additional websites of interest
¹ Dan McGowan, “GM Plant Parking Lot Redevelopment On Track,”Inside Indiana Business, Jan. 5, 2016, http://www.insideindianabusiness.com/story/30889122/gm-plant-parking-lot-redevelopment-on-track
² “Blaine/Southeast Neighborhood Playground,” Last modified May 3, 2015, http://neighborhoods.muncieactionplan.org/portfolio/blainesoutheast-neighborhood-playground/
³ “Old West End Neighborhood Pocket Park,” Last modified June 3, 2015, http://neighborhoods.muncieactionplan.org/portfolio/old-west-end-neighborhood-pocket-park/