By Terry Whitt Bailey
The Cintas building has a new owner.
The building which sits adjacent to Muncie’s core downtown district is now owned and operated by Sustainable Muncie Corporation, a non-profit entity organized to focus on the economic development of Muncie. This Cintas program is focused to attract and support makers of all kinds in a destination facility that promotes and enhances innovation, creativity, learning, development, and selling in order to stimulate and expand economic vitality. The building, which still bears the Cintas name, would allow the community development corporation to foster an environment of collaboration and create conditions for the innovative leveraging of resources of the City of Muncie, Ball State University and IU Health-Ball Memorial Hospital.
Discussions around this concept began in October 2014, when Mayor Tyler formed, appointed and charged the Community Development Concept Exploration Committee with examining the concepts of a local maker’s district, in which artisans and manufacturers make distinctively local products; an arts district, in which artists reside in a particular sector of the community and practice their craft; and an innovation district, where technology and innovation-driven start-ups congregate and pursue their ventures. Early partners in the discussions included representatives from Ball State University, Ivy Tech Community College, Ball Brothers Foundation, Community Foundation, First Merchants Bank, Flatland Resources and Muncie Arts & Culture Council.
The Cintas building, which is more than 85,000 square feet, had been vacant for approximately four years and, as the discussions continued, it emerged as a site that could accommodate collaborative ideas for arts and culture, innovation, research and development, demonstration, experimentation and strong community partnerships.
This mission of Sustainable Muncie Corporation relies on collaborative partnerships between the community’s anchor institutions (i.e., Ball State University, IU Health-Ball Memorial Hospital, and the City of Muncie), local foundations, non-profit partners and Muncie neighborhoods. “This inaugural project of Sustainable Muncie focused on the long tradition of maker culture in Muncie can only be a success with the engagement of these key community partners”, said President, Michael Wolfe. The initiative is firmly rooted in the concept of “primacy of place” – the belief that quality-of-life improvements are one of the most effective ways to create and sustain a vibrant and prosperous community.
Ball State University welcomes the opportunity to be one of the community partners of the Sustainable Muncie Corporation in promoting downtown re-development of the former Cintas facility into an emerging “Maker’s Space” for entrepreneurship, innovation, creativity, learning and development . Consistent with Ball State’s refreshed vision in The Centennial Commitment (18 by ’18) to be the most student-centered and community engaged of the 21st century public research universities, the university viewed this one-time capital investment to revitalize the Cintas facility into a public-private partnership for economic development as a great opportunity to support its community-engagement commitment and elevate our participation in Muncie.
Through Ball State’s investment along with other community partners, the Sustainable Muncie Corporation will begin to reconfigure the former Cintas facility so future commercial and private sector tenants can begin leasing the space. In addition, Ball State University faculty and staff commitment to community engagement and primacy of place projects can apply for short-term funding from the newly created Centennial Commitment Academic Excellence Grants to fund start-up entities in support of this enterprise.
“Ball State University is pleased to join with Mayor Tyler and our community partners in working to revitalize the Cintas facility as a major aspect of downtown economic development, “said President Paul Ferguson. “This project has the potential to contribute in a sustainable, meaningful way to One Muncie.”
Mayor Tyler agrees. “This initiative is an important project for the Muncie community. It serves as a unifying linkage between our community, our foundations and our anchor institutions. The chance to collaborate on the Sustainable Muncie project represents an opportunity to accelerate the transformation of the community in a substantive and strategic manner.”
When fully operational and successful, the Cintas building operated by Sustainable Muncie would not only be contributing to the vitality and vibrancy of the larger community, but enhancing the value and reputation of the very anchor institutions that gave it life.