Every fall Muncie, Indiana grows its population by almost 30%. This addition represents the 20,000 students enrolled at Ball State University in Muncie, many of whom close new housing contracts or renew old ones on- and off-campus.
The university alone runs twenty-nine residence halls and 533 apartments, hosting almost 45% of on-campus students with its 6,906 bed capacity. The remaining student housing needs are supported by off-campus private developments and residences.
Around the university campus, many single family homes actually have altered designs so they can be rented as individual rooms for incoming Ball State students. The rental of these units represents a considerable source of income for an important number of Muncie residents. But due to a supply shortage, students also compete with the local families and residents for newer apartments in scattered developments located mainly in the northern part of the city.
This situation creates a real market for student housing, as well as much needed development and investment opportunities for the city.
In the last two years, Muncie has witnessed the development of a few projects steered by the presence of the university, which contributes to the economic and investment health of the city.
The first of these projects to come about is The Grove, a fifteen million dollar development that will create 216 apartments with a capacity of 584 beds on a 10.45 acre infill site, and is within walking distance of the university. Despite its significant economic impact, the project initially faced the resistance of a local neighborhood association. The main opposition argument was related to the project’s higher density, but residents also expressed their concern regarding the negative externalities related to student life. The project that will contribute to the Muncie economy with almost one million dollars each year was finally cleared and approved in March 2012, and is now in its final construction phases.
In addition, another project close to university was launched last week. Sixty million dollars will be invested in this project as a result of a partnership between the city and a private developer for the construction of a mixed-use development. The project features 288 apartments, commercial storefronts and a parking garage with 266 spaces. It also boasts sustainable landscape design features, such as rain gardens and green roofs. Completion of work is scheduled for fall 2014.
Many university towns across the U.S. are realizing the importance of the economic opportunities generated by the presence of student populations. Have you ever witnessed changes and developments in your town that were the direct result of a university presence?
Credits: Images by Lohren Deeg. Data linked to sources.