WELCOME MIDTOWN! Carmel’s growth over the last ten years has been truly impressive. New residents and visitors take our bustling city in stride, but for those who return to visit friends and family, the landscape seems to have magically transformed. As Mayor Brainard reveals in the following interview, his plans for the future continue to evolve. The man behind the vision still sees great possibilities for this once sleepy burb north of Indy. When did you first envision the redevelopment of Old Town Carmel into the Arts & Design District, followed by the creation of City Center? Was Midtown always a part of your master plan?
City Center planning and development actually occurred before we formalized our ideas for the Arts & Design District. In 1995, when I was walking door-to-door during my first campaign, residents kept asking for a downtown, someplace they could go with family, friends and colleagues to gather, dine out and be entertained. That is when I knew that if I were elected Mayor, I needed to create a place in the central part of the city where people could gather, eat at great restaurants, enjoy the arts and be part of a vibrant community.
It became apparent that the Old Town area could not function as a new downtown, so we selected the 80 acres of land that was available north of the Civic Square complex. This allowedthe urban core to continue developing along Range Line Road. The City Center project was announced in May of 1997 and construction of the first buildings took place in 2001.
The concepts for the Arts & Design District were being formulated as early as 2001 and the project was officially announced 10 years ago at a Carmel Arts Council Gala in November of 2003. At the announcement, I laid out the plan, said we would define the area, which resulted in the design of the gateway arches, and explained that there would be sculptures, fountains and festivals celebrating the arts.
In February 2002, at a demolition ceremony to make way for what is now Old Town on the Monon Shops and Lofts (Muldoon’s and Bazbeaux Pizza building), I discussed the plan for the Arts & Design District and City Center to eventually grow together. The Midtown Project has been a part of the overall concept from the beginning.
Please describe Midtown by area and design. Will it include commercial, residential and retail as well as green spaces? Midtown is intended to be a mix of commercial, residential row houses and single-family lots and retail with a series of green spaces, all centered along an expanded Monon Greenway and new street grid. The most congested section of the greenway will be separated to provide lanes for pedestrians flanked by bicycle paths, tree rows, and a low-speed street on each side featuring onstreet parking and deep sidewalks. An existing water tower, which needs to be enlarged to better serve the area, will be redesigned into a park like setting including a water feature. Midtown will be built in several phases. The first phase will focus along 3rd Avenue SW, north of City Center Drive. The primary goal is to unify the Arts & Design District and City Center into a single, larger downtown core.
How will the three revitalized areas of downtown Carmel, City Center and Midtown work together? Will they be connected by walkways and/or public transportation?
A redesigned street grid and an expanded Monon Greenway will better connect the Arts & Design District and City Center areas. The revitalization of the under-used industrial area west of the Monon Greenway, between the two districts, will activate the entire area as a walkable downtown core. The three districts will complement each other with Midtown providing additional opportunities for residences and workplaces, as well as a physical connection with one of Carmel’s most important assets, the Monon Trail.
Are there other locations in Carmel slated for redevelopment as well?
Well-known urban planner, Jeff Speck, has designed a plan for the revitalization of Merchants’ Square with the intention of making it more walkable. Undeveloped areas within the Carmel Arts & Design District and City Center will continue to develop over the next several years as well. The differences between Carmel today and yesterday’s sleepy suburb are truly amazing.
Do you attribute our status as the #1 Best Place to Live in America in 2012 to Carmel’s energetic pace of growth?
There is no doubt that the growth of the area was a factor in determining that designation, although there are a number of other things that contributed to that honor. When CNN Money magazine named Carmel the number one best place to live in America, we were told that the element that put us over the top, after statistics were compared and communities were visited, was how happy people are to be living in Carmel. Our redevelopment projects have played an integral role in creating the high quality of life that both business and residential members of our community enjoy.
Is there anything else you’d like to discuss?
Redevelopment in the central core of our city makes sense on so many levels. We already have roads, storm sewers, lighting and public safety in place so development costs less, reduces the need for additional services and increases the density where it can sustain the retail and commercial portions of our redevelopment projects. Our redevelopment efforts have also encouraged many public private partnerships in Carmel that have created more vibrancy in our central core. Paying close attention to details and creating a thriving community with mixed uses where people can live, work and play, all within walking distance of each other, has improved the landscape of our community.