Walnut Commons Ribbon Cutting Celebration

Posted on: July 14th, 2015 by

Mayor Dennis Tyler sees the new Walnut Commons apartment building for the homeless and the new Courtyard by Marriott hotel as downtown bookends.

“Three-and-a-half years ago, people said ‘no’ to this,” Tyler said at a ribbon cutting and open house on Tuesday for the $8.4 million, 44-unit Walnut Commons. “Three-and-a-half years ago, people said ‘no,’ we would never have a hotel in downtown Muncie, especially one with a training center for people with disabilities to learn how to work in the hospitality industry.”

Drawing applause, he added, “And now look at what we’ve got on both ends of the spectrum of downtown, and what that says about our community, ladies and gentlemen.”

Photo: Jordan Kartholl/Star Press

Photo: Jordan Kartholl/Star Press

Walnut Commons is the city’s first supportive housing project, aimed at reintegrating chronically homeless people into the community through a combination of housing and services.

The project originally was going to be sited on a 2.4-acre vacant lot on South Walnut Street near the entrance to Crestview Golf Club. But neighbors objected.

Sue Blackburn, one of the residents of Walnut Commons, had a job and was a productive member of the community before ownership at her place of employment changed hands — and her pay was cut in half.

“Things spiraled out of control,” she said at the ceremony. “I didn’t have enough money for rent, food or to live. I had to couch surf and eventually live out of my car. My car was my home. I had to wash up at McDonald’s and other restaurants.”

What she most likes about her new home is the doctors, the computer lab, the fitness room “and the wonderful staff that helps us.”

“We know that treatment works, and we know that recovery is possible,” said Kevin Moore, state director of mental health and addiction, before introducing Blackburn, who has suffered from depression and anxiety. “And we know that what Walnut Commons represents today is a significant part of supporting recovery for persons with their mental health, alongside employment, stigma reduction and a place to belong are important.”

He congratulated the partnership that made the project possible — Chicago developer Daveri Development Group, Meridian Health Services, the Corporation for Supportive Housing-Indiana, Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA), Federal Home Loan Bank of Indianapolis, First Merchants Bank, and the city of Muncie.

Another tenant, Anita Garcia, told The Star Press she considers her apartment “my castle” and identified “the security” as the best asset, while a third said she was most thankful for “peace of mind.”

The building is a three-story, energy-efficient, brick and fiber-cement-siding structure that includes a gym with Nordic Track bikes and treadmills, a computer lab, a patio with a pergola, a TV lounge with kitchen equipment, laundry rooms, bike racks, storage cages, bedbug-resistant furniture, well-hidden security cameras inside and out, heat lamps in the restrooms, intercoms in each apartment to communicate with visitors trying to enter the locked building and bars between the kitchens/living rooms with bar stools on the living room side.

In addition, there is a fenced-in, storm-water management bio-retention basin with “live walls” out of which grow crested iris, creeping myrtle vines and grassy-leaved sweetflag. Black gum, red maple, serviceberry and redbud trees surround the apartment building.

And there is also a medical clinic in the building, Meridian MD, with its own separate sign and entrance, that will serve the neighborhood in addition to tenants.

Contact Seth Slabaugh at (765) 213-5834.

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