Urban parks for business revitalization
Marlow, Christopher M.
Blalock, Joseph C.
HISTORY OF MUNCIE AND CURRENT SITE ISSUES
This project looks at the problems with Muncie’s downtown and proposes a design that will revitalize it through urban parks. Muncie’s downtown began to see businesses leave during the 1970s and 80s, when Muncie had two major events that affected its downtown. First, Walnut Street was converted to a pedestrian mall, eliminating any automobile traffic along it and essentially killing the retail of the downtown. The second major event was the installation of the Muncie Mall on the north end of Muncie, which began to take businesses away from the downtown and out to the mall. In the 90s to 2000s, Muncie’s downtown began to slowly recovering from the devastation of the loss of businesses. However, as businesses began to move out in the 1990s, their vacant buildings were replaced with parking lots. This has lead to an overabundance of parking lots in the downtown.
Though Walnut has maintained its downtown style, the neighboring streets east and west of it, Mulberry and High, currently face mostly parking lots. Even though these streets are one block away, they have a completely different experience than Walnut. Most of these streets have poor sidewalk conditions and little destinations along them to get people to walk down them. As a result of this parking situation, most of the developmental land is tied up in privately owned parking lots, which means development only occurs when existing buildings become vacant.
The other key issue is a lack of public spaces throughout the downtown. There are no places to gather or draw people to the downtown. Even if people were walking around downtown, there is little shade or seating provided anywhere outside of the buildings.
In order to solve these problems, a design philosophy was developed. After reviewing literature on the subject, an urban park was conceived as the solution towards the downtown’s problems. The idea behind this philosophy is that the park, people, and businesses are all connected in a cycle where they all benefit from the each other and if one is removed, it breaks the cycle. The cycle starts with the park providing activities and attractions for people. This will bring more people downtown to live and play. With more people living and visiting near the park, there will be a higher demand for goods and services to accommodate the increase of people. The businesses will realize the potential demand and move their retail near the park. The businesses, located next to the park, will help maintain it to keep people visiting it.
The main concept that followed this philosophy was incorporating multiple pocket parks connected along a pedestrian circulation system that looped throughout the downtown. These pocket parks form one larger linear park that becomes a landmark for the downtown. Although these parks are relatively close to each other, they are designed to each have a different style and character to them. Each park will provide different amenities to attract a diverse amount of users and give different opportunities for people downtown. These parks, connected to form one linear park, will attract people with its variety of amenities to the downtown and help revitalize the businesses.