A group of students from the Department of Urban Planning at Ball State University is taking part in a unique effort to help Delaware County develop a new comprehensive plan. The students have set up a community design center inside the Muncie Mall to host meetings, conduct research and interact with residents as they develop the plan with the help of a professional consultant. Department Chair Scott Truex says the mall location is ideal because it offers plenty of space to safely host meetings and allow for physical distancing.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Truex said giving students real-world experience is critical to the program.
“But the idea that we could also help educate a community, help them understand issues, possibly put them in a framework that allows people to be more informed and obviously, the more informed, the better decision making we can make and we can get people a little closer on the same playing field in understanding those things,” said Truex.
Truex says the group, which include about 30 graduate and undergraduate students, is currently conducting research and obtaining data on the past 20-25 years of patterns and history in Delaware County. He says the data will serve as the foundation for the comprehensive plan.
The plan, Truex says, will project where Muncie and Delaware County wants to be in 20 years and will include various aspects of economic development.
“Every comprehensive plan is a very critical document to a community,” said Truex. “We want the growth in expansion, but it has to be in a way that it is most cost effective. So the comprehensive plan becomes this transportation study, land use study, economic study, housing study, environmental issues study, basically the quality of life issues that are important and allows us as a community to have the kind of dialogue so that as we can go forward, we can make decisions that are most effective and benefit as many people as possible.”
Truex says the Department of Urban Planning has participated in similar programs throughout the state. He says Muncie preparing for a comprehensive plan was beneficial for current students due to travel restrictions related to COVID-19.
The 8,900-square-foot space was made available with financial support from the city, the Delaware-Muncie Metropolitan Plan Commission, the Ball Brothers Foundation and the College of Architecture and Planning at Ball State, in which the Department of Urban Planning resides.
Truex says giving students real-world experience is critical to the program.