But across America suburbs old and new are looking at different paths, some based in New Urbanism, others in different approaches, to try to build a different product, one that will still be worth living and doing business in when the growth wave passes them over.
One of those places is Carmel, Indiana (pronounced like the Biblical Carmel). It’s a classic upscale, traditionally car-based suburb (meaning not a streetcar style suburb) of about 80,000 people north of Indianapolis, roughly similar to many other prestige business suburbs around the country like Naperville, IL; Mason or Dublin, OH; or Cool Springs, TN. They have one of the most ambitious agendas of suburban retrofit in the country, taking what was once a typical sprawling town in a more urban, dense, mixed use, walkable direction.
I wrote a three part series on Carmel in 2007 called “Leadership in Action” you may want to review. Most material in this post is new and does not repeat the previous installments.
- Part One: Strategy
- Part Two: New Urbanism
- Part Three: Criticisms
Think of this as “Part Four: Progress Report” in which I’ll share some current initiatives of interest.
This original core of Carmel prior to its big growth phase was a mix of industrial and strip malls, most of which were in advanced states of dilapidation. This has been an area of focus as the city has tried to reinvent it as a true regional town center. One of the dead strip malls was acquired by the city and is being turned into the mixed use Carmel City Center project. Various townhomes and offices have already been built, but the core of the project is a large, mixed use retail/office/hotel/condo/greenspace/theater complex is that is nearing its grand opening. Here’s a picture of the main commercial structure:
Behind this building is a new $150 million, 1,600 seat concert hall called the Palladium.
The City Center complex will also house a new, separate $10 million home for the Indianapolis Civic Theater (the oldest community theater in the United States), and another 250 seat theater space. Carmel is betting a lot of chips on the arts, but we’ll have to see if a suburban city will ultimately be willing to present art of serious ambition vs. just safe crowd pleasers.
About half a mile north of City Center is Carmel’s original downtown, the Old Town area, now called the “Arts and Design District”. This newly opened building there is the Indiana Design Center, which will house several design-related firms.
Village of West Clay
On the west side of Carmel is a classic style New Urbanist master planned community called the Village of West Clay. Here’s a picture to give you a flavor of it:
Click over to my previous series for more new urbanist photos. But it’s time to move on to transportation. Carmel has made a big commitment to pedestrian and bicycle friendliness. One way it is doing this is by upgrading its old two-lane country style streets into parkways. Rather than bike lanes and sidewalks, however, Carmel is using its suburban ROW advantage to instead provide fully separated bike and pedestrian access through 8-10 foot wide sidepaths on both side of the street. Here’s an example on Towne Rd.
The multi-use sidepath has emerged as a sort of suburban standard in Indianapolis. Many of them have been installed, even in cases where the actual road hasn’t been upgraded.
Trail Grade Separations
The Monon Trail is a rail-trail that links Carmel and points north with downtown Indianapolis. Like many local projects, it was controversial when proposed – the city had to pursue over 250 condemnations to acquire the right of way due to the easement process the railroad had used to build and neighbor opposition – but that now no one can imagine life without. The picture at the top of this post is the Monon Trail at Main St. I said there aren’t that many four lane roads, but where the trail does cross one, the city grade separated it, usually via a tunnel, but in this case at Carmel Dr. with a bridge.
I mentioned roundabouts earlier. These modern roundabouts aren’t like old school traffic circles. Google them up to find out why they are safer and better than stop signs and signalized intersections. Carmel is the US leader in these, with over 65 already built. That represents about 5% of the entire US total, though as these become more popular that will no doubt go down.
But Carmel recently upped its game with roundabout interchanges. These are similar to a compressed diamond or SPUI, but instead of stoplights, they use a roundabout (or roundabout pair) to control traffic. Carmel didn’t invent these or even implement the first one in the US, but it is implementing the largest scale deployment to date as it wraps up work converting six signaled intersections on Keystone Ave. to roundabout interchanges. (Several more are to come on nearby US 31. Carmel has even consulted with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation on a major roundabout interchange program there).
This was originally a state controlled four lane divided highway with a frankly rural design characteristic. INDOT wanted to widen it to six lanes but leave stop lights in place. Carmel had a better idea: give us the road the money you were going to spend on it, we’ll add zero lanes, but convert those stop lights to roundabout interchanges to make the road safer for traffic, provide a safer path for pedestrians and cyclists to cross over Keystone, and reduce the barrier created by the highway. Here’s a picture of the completed interchange at 126th St.
The other interchanges are similar enough to provide a common design feel but different enough to provide interest. Here’s a shot of the 106th St. interchange, showing both the difference in color and the coloring on the tilted cutouts that are only visible from certain angles – sure to surprise and delight.
Risks and Conclusion
Again, if you want to read more, see my previous three part series. On the whole, I’m very impressed with what Carmel is trying to do in terms of new urbanism, pedestrian and bicycle design, and trying to build an environment with long term staying power.
Also, this is a regional amenity. Clearly, a nice suburb is no substitute for a vibrant urban core. But a great city needs great suburbs. In the ever more competitive world we live in today, every part of a region needs to know its role on the team and bring its A-game. And let’s face it, not all people are going to want to live in the city. Some people, whether that be corporate executives who want estate style living or many families or others, will always prefer a suburban environment. So having a suburb like Carmel that is on the leading edge of practice in many ways is a competitive asset for the whole region. Frankly, there is a risk that as places like Carmel grow too successful, they will suck up too much life out of the city. It does worry me. But I think that means we need to work harder to bring the city up, not that we should cut the suburbs down.
Not all has been positive. A vocal minority hates the direction the city has gone under Mayor Jim Brainard, and while they have as yet proven a minority, they’ve grown in strength and there are more battles over these projects than there were a few years back. The city council is more aggressive these days, and being a checks and balances kind of guy, I think that’s probably healthy.
The current economy, particularly against the backdrop of a state like Indiana, also has a lot of people questioning the spending levels. And there have been some embarrassing financial screwups. The Keystone project was originally estimated to be done with only the money from the state, but costs were higher than anticipated – though still far less than what INDOT could have done the project for. Carmel had to bond about $20 million to finish it – not a minor amount. A community recreation facility called the Monon Center was supposed to be self-supporting but is requiring tax subsidies. Dittos for the operations of the Palladium.
Carmel’s amenity led strategy has paid off in terms of millions of square feet of Class A office and other commercial space. It has the fourth lowest tax rate of any city in the state – one that hasn’t gone up in over a decade – and the second most affluent resident base, so clearly financing is not an absolute constraint. But Hoosiers are by nature tight fisted with the public purse, and questions have, rightly in my view, been asked about some of these overruns.
But perhaps the best verdict on Carmel was rendered by the Ã¼ber-spending hawk Gov. Mitch Daniels. He personally built a home in Carmel shortly after getting elected governor and after the transformation plan was well over way. Daniels voted with his feet – that’s the ultimate endorsement. If Mitch Daniels is ok enough with the spending to live there, I’m guessing the rest of the community probably will be too.
The other storm cloud on the horizon is schools. The state took over all school operations funding as part of a property tax reform program. But in the last budget the state implemented a funding formula that gave upscale Indianapolis suburbs the least amount of money in the entire state. Carmel’s highly regarded school district received the fourth lowest per pupil funds of any district in the entire state. That’s hardly a recipe for economic development. As no doubt the legislature intended, Carmel and other municipalities had to implement special local tax referendums to keep from implementing draconian cuts. In effect, the state outsourced the painful and messy business of raising taxes to these local governments. It was a de facto geographically targeted tax increase to help the state balance its budget. A collection of these suburbs is presently suing the state over the matter. Regardless of how it ends up, this is an ominous sign for a state that is ostensibly hanging its hat on new economy businesses, when these places are where it is centered in the state, where the labor force that powers it lives, in a region that supplies 80% of the state’s economic growth and a significant slug of surplus state taxes.
Another risk is that the region takes the wrong lesson from Carmel and writes off what it has accomplished as merely being for rich people. While “the nicest stuff for the people with the most money” is the easy default strategy for the upscale suburb, there are many lessons around a civic strategy anchored in a vision of how to differentiate and position a community for the long term future that are more broadly applicable. That doesn’t mean cloning Carmel. Again, every town needs to know its role on the team. Not everyone can be the quarterback. Not everybody is a linebacker. Not everybody is a center. Different towns need to find their niche and play their role as good as it can be played. One positive sign: the old industrial suburb of Speedway is leveraging many of the same techniques in an attempt to create a more year-round motorsports destination. But that will have to be the subject of a future post, perhaps.
More on the Suburbs
Building Suburbs That Last
- Part One: Strategy
- Part Two: New Urbanism and Parcelization
- Part Three: The Mother of All Impact Fees
- Part Four: Supporting Home Based Businesses
End Property Tax Collection in Arrears
The Power of Greenfield Economics
“The nicest stuff for the people with the most money” is less of a strategy than a market straitjacket.
Looking back at the real estate bubble, wasn’t a basic market flaw that just about 100% of the capital chased after the top 10% of the market?
We had both massive 1950s-style cul-de-sac subdivisions and adaptive re-use or newly built multiunit housing. Different land uses, yet both were targeted to a small, highly desirable cohort that had too many options.
This article, through great writing and imagery, shows how Carmel is repurposing itself into a diversified suburb. It’s a sound strategy if Carmel is exotic land use for the Indianapolis metropolitan area. Yet what Carmel has done is not unique to Carmel.
On a broader level, Carmel has many cohorts nationwide.
In Southern California, Carmel’s equivalent is Cerritos or Thousand Oaks. In the Bay Area, Walnut Creek is Carmel with a BART station. In Puget Sound, it’s Redmond. In Chicago, it’s Naperville. And so on.
The next challenge is for Carmel to proclaim its Carmel-ness if it were to pick up the most mobile and selective members of society.
From what I’ve read and know from personal experience, the Carmel story is really unique among Midwestern suburbs, and I appreciate Aaron’s continued coverage and insights.
The architectural design of many public and private initiatives may be relatively conservative but the efforts to integrate pedestrian friendly mixed use development, recreational amenities like the Monon Trail and innovative transportation approaches like the roundabouts is inspiring. Squelchers and crititics have no idea how difficult it is to get stuff of this magnitude accomplished.
Is there a more progressive Midwestern suburb than Carmel right now in terms of urban planning and urban design?
I’m looking forward to your insights and thoughts on Speedway. Keep up the good work.
While roundabout interchanges may be novel in the US (especially outside of Washington DC, where there are quite a few of them), they are commonplace in much of Asia. Hong Kong has tons of them, including numerous examples where only traffic changing roads enters the roundabout (straightahead traffic passes above or below the roundabout instead).
The Urbanophile says
Scotty, you’re right that there are tons of these outside the US. In fact, when Carmel built its first roundabouts, it was difficult to find standards for how they should be designed, so they wrote to transport ministries in Australia and the UK to ask for their standards. They also consulted with an engineer in the UK on their roundabout interchange projects, and have had some overseas consulting architects on various of their redevelopment projects. Tapping out of state much less out of the country expertise is rare in Indiana.
As far as what others are doing, I won’t profess to have intimate knowledge. Chicago suburbs like Evanston are actually building bona fide high rises, but it simple isn’t realistic to compare Evanston and Carmel. Naperville has a fantastic downtown that blows away anything Carmel has, but again, that’s a legacy downtown and the rest of the city is a disaster zone of traditional sprawl. There are probably good comps on the coast – I know Carmel references La Jolla from time to time – but Indy metro simply can’t compete on sheer wealth with those places.
In my observation, a lot of these things are being done elsewhere (which is good). What distinguishes Carmel in the Midwest is how many elements are being brought together and the scale at which they are being deployed.
One of the best “nice things for rich people” avoidance strategies, which I couldn’t help but fall prey to myself while reading this post, is for individual suburbs to reach out to surrounding neighbors to create projects that reach beyond borders. So much federal funding will be tied to making community connections so that no one community is allowed to be insular, which has been at the root of suburban problems.
While Carmel and the Monon trail are nice, I still don’t see that component strongly represented here, though it may exist.
Cap'n Transit says
So you can get around Carmel by foot or bicycle, but how do you get out?
The Urbanophile says
There’s an express commuter bus service to downtown. The city has also looked at an internal circulator bus, but I think it is fair to say that like the entire Indianapolis region, your transit options are virtually nil.
Henry Jordan says
Your article, though glossy and subjective in general, seems to have come straight from Mayor Brainard’s public relations department. The typical cheering for this urbanization was celebrated by you strictly on its face, rather than to consider the underlying issues involved that far exceed a simple minority opposition to the Mayor’s grand plans. That “minority” is bigger than you have been led to believe.
What you should have mentioned is that the city is grossly overbuilt with a high percentage of vacancies including sub leases. Yet, the Mayor still encourages more commercial construction. Same with high density residential construction which is being encouraged despite a high inventory of residential property, including high density condominiums which are at this time impossible to sell in this city. Yet the Mayor keeps on building principally in an attempt to gain more of a tax base for revenue to mitigate is unabated spending and borrowing.
You failed to go in depth to find that the Mayor has engaged in deficit spending for the last two years to the tune of $5 million per annum or more, that the Palladium Foundation was broke and needed a recent $2 million grant from resident taxpayer money to pay its bills, that the roundabouts to date have cost over $75 million plus long term interest with plans to convert every four way stoplight to that form of interchange, that the Palladium was more of an extreme overestimate than Keystone because it morphed from the original $80 million to the present $169 million with construction costs still due, and more.
Since Mayor Brainard’s last reelection 2.5 years ago the overall city debt, including interest went from appx. $450 million to the present near $800 million, traffic during rush hour has been worsening due to the new roadwork being more of a benefit to Indianapolis and northern suburbs than to Carmel residents, and his Carmel Redevelopment Commission using business taxes for their work are currently broke, and there is a possibility that if they do not have enough funds to pay for the first bond payment on the Palladium that residents will be hit with a $7 million dollar ad-valorem tax.
The trouble with reports like yours is that, as I said above, they only deal with the face of the urbanization, but not at the underlying difficulties created by a Mayor who wanted an instant city, rather than sensible building for the benefit and needs of the community. It is no wonder that the Mayor raised nearly one million dollars in his last campaign, 93% coming from business interests doing business with, or wanting to do business with Carmel. He’s consistently been paying back his contributors to the long term detriment of its citizens, and the city’s fiscal stability.
Carmel might look pretty and neat on its face, but under it all looms a fiscal crisis that might make your glowing report an exercise in naivete.
The Urbanophile says
Henry, thanks for sharing your comments.
I would agree that there’s financial risk in what they are doing. In fact, I’d be surprised if the Palladium didn’t ultimately require more operating subsidy from the city. I think a suburb building a $150M concert hall is probably the most debatable and risky thing they’ve done.
However, your talk about debt, etc. is the same story that has been told for many years. It may be that this time it’s different, but the sky has yet to fall. Carmel’s annexation of high end SW Clay takes affect soon and the city will start reaping COIT and property taxes from that too. My suggestion would be that critics ought to attach dates and dollars to their predictions.
Also, as for the percentage of critics, let’s see what happens at the next election, assuming Brainard runs again.
http://www.inglenookcarmel.com/ for a look at what’s being called a sustainable cottage community. Designs that are decidedly “un-Carmel.” Recent IMA speaker, Sarah Susanka (‘The Not So Big House’) cited Architects/Site Planners, Ross Chapin.
John Morris says
Interesting, I need to follow all the links a look into this further.
The great thing is that as efforts like this start to gather steam and become more dominant, a much more symbiotic relationship can grow between the inner city and it’s suburbs.
I oppose inner city stadiums, for example because in most cases they require so much parking. Only car oriented development has created such a life and death conflict between the inner city and it’s suburbs.
John Morris says
“The trouble with reports like yours is that, as I said above, they only deal with the face of the urbanization, but not at the underlying difficulties created by a Mayor who wanted an instant city.”
I think Jane Jacobs pointed out the problems with instant anything in terms of large scale development.
Also, the massive concert hall–a huge single use attraction, is by far the least sensible thing shown and the least urban.
Most likely, there will be a fiscal bloodbath and some bankruptcies involved here. But, the bottom line is that the general plan is more sound and the parts are at least more likely to have value.
How many times have we seen big box, and strip mall grey belts become literal financial deserts.
What is just as big of a story is the leadership in Carmel and how that model is spreading to other communities in Central Indiana who are raising their bars.
The Mayor of Carmel has been vilified by the small, rabid and vocal critics on even the smallest of projects. What is becoming evident is that strong leadership makes the difference whether it is a burb or large city.
While critics of Carmel complain the city is trying to reinventing itself over night, some projects just being completed now were a decade or more in the planning stage.
John Morris says
Projects that take ten years or more to plan, just might have been too big to start with.
It’s a real big problem in that from what I can tell, you had a place with that was close to zero on the urbanism scale with existing residents with almost zero knowledge of or exposure to good design or real urban type design trying to figure out how to reverse the process.
IMHO, there just had to be a more rational small scale way to go about this in a more incremental way.
Are there any plans at all on the table for a transit system of some kind? Perhaps some small scale shuttle busses running back and forth?
Another good concept would have been some kind of active tax on surface parking or all paved land area that was much lower for built up space. The good thing is that now Carmel and Indianapolis are moving towards a shared interest in walkable design and transit options.
I mean for the cost of those trafic circles, you could have done a lot.
cdc guy says
I have some doubts about the pedestrian-friendliness of Carmel’s city of roundabouts. With constantly-flowing two-direction traffic, using those multi-use paths to cross seems like an exercise in both frustration and danger.
Through traffic flows on Hazel Dell Parkway (the first series of roundabouts Carmel installed) at relatively high speeds.
John Morris wrote:
I oppose inner city stadiums, for example because in most cases they require so much parking.
Major League Baseball has offered some very good urban park templates that minimize parking, but its the cities that must insist on it.
AT&T Park in San Francisco and Petco Park in San Diego have the least amount of stadium parking possible.
AT&T Park took a car-avoidance strategy. You’d have to pay a lot to park at the stadium, but you can get to the ballpark by express bus, light rail, commuter rail, BART with a long walk or even ferry.
Petco Park took a parking conservation strategy. Petco’s only parking is a tailgating lot that could house about 5% of stadium capacity. Instead, San Diego realized its downtown parking was underutilized, so it didn’t flood valuable downtown land with even more underused parking. Padres fans just find whatever private lots offer the best deal and park there.
The one pleasant side effect of this policy is that it encouraged pedestrianism. When people have to walk 1/2 to 1 mile from their lots to the stadium, they help bring in foot traffic downtown and support local businesses.
Donald Shoup used Petco Park as one of his case studies in “The High Cost of Free Parking.” I don’t know if he had a hand in planning the strategy, though, but it is what he has been advocating.
John Morris says
San Francisco! Face it there’s a big fat zero chance of things like that going on in or near less dense urban areas where almost everyone has been granted the “free” right to drive and park anywhere they like. San Francisco, is hardly an urban paradise but for America it sort of is.
The point is that if you were looking for an idea to jumpstart pro urban walkable development, a giant attraction might be the least likey thing with the worst return on investment.
Do most people really go to a ballgame every night?
I agree about the trafic circles. Only people who have never lived without a car with love that idea. Better to just narrow the road, widen the sidewalks and offer local trafic alternatives to cars like shuttle busses or light rail where it will work.
Aaron makes the good point that it might be wise to even make it free.
Henry Jordan says
How naive can you be, or do you just write purposely without investigation? There has to be a cause and benefit for any urbanization of a city, and not just having a wild runaway Mayor that throws all these white elephant projects in the cauldron with hopes that money will come in to pay for it all, or there will be a measure of success. So far it’s turned out to be a beautiful failure.
This is NOT like the past complaints about debt because the city never had the kind of debt service or deficit spending that they Mayor has wrapped citizens into the last couple of years. Aside from 2 years of deficits in a row never before the case in Carmel, the fact remains that the general fund (and not all funds those funds that are not touchable for expense payments which the Mayor would make you believe is all available for immediate disbursement) is getting down to the bone. Brainard recently wanted to squeeze out the rest of the rainy day fund, and the motor vehicle fund cause he’s running out of money. That draining is still in the works and could be approved soon.
Further, the SW Clay annexation does nothing for Carmel until the 2012 tax year (for 2011 obligations) and that will only be 25% of the full tax. Then 50% in 2013, 75% in 2014, and finally full taxation in 2015. This per the SW Clay annexation agreement inked by Brainard.
Nonetheless, the Mayor’s personal accountant factored in the SW Clay revenue and still called conservatively for at least a $5 million deficit in 2013. That could be exacerbated by further resident tax subsidies to the Palladium. So don’t tell me about past complaints as this is a different set of circumstance, and a different history.
Moreover, the Mayor has misrepresented that no resident tax money would be used for the Palladium, yet the $2 million just approved by the Council is resident taxpayer money. There has been no entertaining program announced, the PAC foundation is keeping citizens in the dark with a new director that tells everyone that donation collection is not very promising, and the Mayor isn’t talking. You bet your booties that more funding will be necessary for that white elephant which will break the back of Carmel finances.
And, that Art and Design District is being flooded with subsidy money by the Carmel Redevelopment Commission. If those business taxes would not be going into that direction there would be even more of a failure there than it is already. Consider the gross number of vacancies in a district has modern art at high prices entirely foreign to the typical Carmel citizen.
You are not much different than the typical apathetic Carmel citizen who only looks at the issue on its face alone. But instead of really getting into public relations posture, contact the City-Treasurer for details, etc., instead of spewing the spiel of Brainard propaganda.
Maybe the Chicagoland award, for whatever that is worth, has gone to your head. Wake up and smell the roses, and the FACTS before spewing off some free public relations to even more put Carmel citizens in the dark over this fiscal disaster in the making.
Aaron it needs to be pointed out that the new concert hall (Palladium) from the beginning was planned to operate at a deficit. If concert halls across the county were profitable then there would be no need for the public sector to step forward. Its purpose is to be an economic generator and catalyst for further infill development while at the same time contributing to quality of life. It has already surpassed expectations in attracting new development.. TIF income in Carmel is several times what was originally projected and covers the debt service and allows for more options.
To John Morris; Carmel has leveraged public private partnerships in many of the projects in the downtown to provide for underground parking and encourage density and walkablity. Older neighborhoods that are within walking distance are seeing a renewed vibrancy rather than typical urban decay. The comprehensive plan does look to the future with shuttles or possible trolleys integrating with a regional component. The City Center which has been ten years in the planning had many dominos that needed to fall first.
To CDC; the multi use paths are pedestrian friendly as I just returned from an hour bicycle ride. Hazel Dell roundabouts will be tweaked to slow traffic down in the near future. What is telling is that for the most part only a few residents fight the installation of roundabouts and multi use paths. Instead Councilors and neighborhoods that were once critical of them are now actively lobbying for them.
What is miraculous in Carmel is the progress that has been made in the last 14 years. Previously redevelopment consisted of selling T-shirts and today public /private partnerships are leading the way toward sustainability as an edge city.
John Morris wrote:
The point is that if you were looking for an idea to jumpstart pro urban walkable development, a giant attraction might be the least likey thing with the worst return on investment.
Return on investment and catalyst are two different things. Massive crowd venues are almost always awful returns on investment. The insistence on sports teams use of single-purpose stadia, built at generous public expense, makes it a money loser.
These venues, though, catalyze some private economic activity such as hotels and restaurants and inject activity where there wouldn’t be any.
Otherwise, what Jane Jacobs has pointed out has largely proven true. Pedestrian space cannot be created, people must settle it through routine interactions.
A place like Carmel can add lush, greenscaped ped and bike trails and make it a master-planned paradise. Yet the bigger problem is that people will avoid them if they are desolate. People will also not change their habits just because the option was made available. There has to be a walking culture in place before the trails went in. Otherwise, it’s only window-dressing. Weird, huh?
Do most people really go to a ballgame every night?
That’s the team’s problem. It’s also cultural. Teams like the Cubs and the Red Sox have a rabid, loyal fanbase that sticks with their team and keeps attendance high regardless of team performance. Teams in the Sunbelt, on the other hand, have the burden of fair weather fans who only turn out when teams are really hot. Atlanta has developed a loyal Braves base, while Florida’s regular season teams have always had problems drawing even when the Marlins and Rays were hot.
John Morris says
Um, your not doing too well here with your examples. Did the Lakeview neighborhood come before the Ball Park? Wrigley partly has that kind of fan base because of this very long deep organic relationship with the city and Fenway is the same way, I think.
Give me a break, there were a lot more simple small things that could have inspired activity–the first of which is just good or great design.From what I can tell the area already had some substantial population.
How about a series of wonderful small parks and play grounds? How about a community garden? (which just might not be as absurd as it seems.) How about a mixed use building created for artists or deigners? How about an Amish or authentic rural crafts and furniuture market? How about a movie theater or series of small playhouses? How about a tech incubator?
Really, one could go on and on. If you want to create a small town/ city, you need to look at the things that made them tick.
Now after, blowing lots of cash on a mega “attraction” they are thinking about some type of transit—the one thing that would have been a clear benefit to everyone.
This really does have a Dubai feel to it. Even so, my guess is that the area was on the path to becoming a totally disposable place that would have been thrown out for another sprawl suburb. I guess I admire the effort.
John, all of those things you mention can help create a sense of place. On the other hand, none of them can.
The difference lies in between putting things in the right place and hoping things will get the ball rolling.
It’s very hard even for the best projects to shift cultural attitudes. If you put space-making amenities into communities that are loath to embrace the public sphere, you end up reinforcing community prejudices against the projects. A community that’s put off by the public sphere will bunker down by pouring water on the efforts and helping to make the area even more desolate.
Yet a place-building project would succeed if a community through its own initiative started to first take to the streets rather than waiting for improvements to come. I really love how bicyclists in urban areas throughout the country have gotten the ball rolling, even in areas where it’s hazardous to ride bikes.
They’ve essentially seized open turf and made it into a platform into bigger and better things. There’s an organic demand and constituency for improved bicycling amenities, rather than officials hoping to create one in order to entice the masses.
Portland could likely have deficient bike infrastructure in many areas, yet bicyclists will still be drawn to the areas because they could identify with a community rather than a technocratic effort.
Bottom line, it takes people to make a great place, not the other way around. The built environment doesn’t have mystical powers. Great parks, clean sidewalks and storefronts would be wasted in areas that got by without them and wouldn’t appreciate what they had.
Henry Jordan says
This apologist is apparently the same person who appears on several forums using the same language in defending Brainard’s goals to bankrupt Carmel. His terminology of an “edge city” is a redundant message, and his support of Brainard without clear evidence is continually apparent. I believe he goes under the name of “Carmel Resident” on the forums.
The fact is that the Carmel Redevelopment Commission recently showed a balance of less than $100K of TIF revenue remaining after their first annual installment, and it is questionable as to whether they will have enough to make the first Palladium bond payment due beginning of 2011. As I wrote before the alternative will be an ad-valorem tax to be paid by resident taxpayers.
Sure, the Palladium was built with an operating deficit announced, but of only $350K annually on the grounds of an estimated cost of $80 million. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to compute what the deficit would be now that the cost of the center is approaching $200 million dollars. Some have said it could reach six to eight million annually, and even the new fund raiser Steve Libman conceded several million per year. That individual, by the way, has recently said that donation collections for the Palladium are not in the cards at present. There are deficits, and there are deficits, but the future for this center in that respect looks dim indeed.
And, that’s not grousing or complaining but facing the reality of the situation based on the evidence. Unfortunately, in today’s world, as I have said, people look only at the facade, and not the details.
Private-Public projects are failing in Carmel, and the CRC are piling on business tax money, TIF revenue, to shore them up and subsidize them to protect the image of the Mayor. Remember, the Mayor appoints a majority of the five members on the CRC, and therefore controls it exclusively. He has been sucking money out of that commission continually to pay for his legacy projects. Now it is near broke, and the lofty liberal projections of future TIF money by the Mayor’s own accountant is arbitrary at best. Such can be verified by calling the Carmel Clerk-Treasurer.
You can develop a suburb, and spend all kinds of money, but it is pointless if the populace won’t use it, or support it. To spend a million to several millions for each roundabout is a wasteful expenditure of money especially if the Mayor, who thinks taxpayer money is his own personal purse, wants to go overboard by converting all stoplight interchanges to that form.
The whole concept of Carmel which supposedly is on the “edge of greatness” is that greatness does not flow from fiscal instability. There are many a city in the USA that has gone through the same type of instant growth, and have ended up with mass flight of residents due to huge taxation.
Which brings to mind another point from the blog that taxes haven’t risen since Brainard took office. A complete error. In fact, taxes have over doubled since he came into office, and that only because of Gov. Daniels tax relief program did it appear that taxes were in fact lower. Now with the recent school levy of $12 million annually, the total taxes paid by residents is not over what it was before the relief program. There probably will be even more taxation where it be sales tax or local option income tax for Carmel residents before all is said and done.
Communities building roundabouts are not doing so based on construction costs alone. Roundabouts have a higher capacity to move traffic than a signalized intersection, lower accident and fatality rates and are immune to breakdown when you encounter a power outage. If your going to make an argument against them based on cost, then you need to account for all of the costs and benefits, not simply cherry-pick the numbers that suit you and ignore all others that were part of the decision to go that direction.
I don’t believe that Carmel is the typical American suburb. Having grown up in the area and being familiar with suburbs in Ft. Wayne, South Bend, Bloomington and elsewhere across the country, Carmel is different. My fear is that just as “new urbanism” stories focus on the same two or three developments that stand in for new urbanism principals, that Carmel is going to be a stand-in for the “Next American Suburb.” Too bad, as most people living in a suburban area in the future will not live in a place like Carmel.
This is coming from someone who spent 15+ years in Carmel and I still go there a few times a month to visit my parents. There is no culture in Carmel, there is very little sense of community and it is driven by status and who has the prettiest car and wife. Local business is almost unheard of any more as it has sold out to huge box stores and fancy outdoor malls. All the multi use paths are very nice and very accommodating, however they are primarily used for recreation, which is great, but 99% of the residents of Carmel will never get out of their cars to go to the grocery store. I live downtown now, and driving to Carmel to see my folks is one of the only reasons I ever get in my car anymore. I have many good friends in Carmel, but I will never live there again…by choice at least. It is all I despise about materialism wrapped up in a pretty little package.
“I don’t believe that Carmel is the typical American suburb. Having grown up in the area and being familiar with suburbs in Ft. Wayne, South Bend, Bloomington and elsewhere across the country, Carmel is different.”
I think that was the point of Aaron’s post. If it was typical, there would be no point in highlighting all the ways that it’s exactly the same as everywhere else.
wouldn’t be urban planning without a little bit of this nonsense
We have a Carmel in the DC area, it’s called Reston, and is filled with chain restaurants, yuppie condos, and has been fawned over hundreds of times by the AIA and urban planning geeks. It also has a “Market Street” patrolled by walkie-talkie carrying mall cops – just like in Carmel’s Clay Terrace. Only difference between Reston’s “Town Center” and Carmel’s “Lifestyle Center” is some marketing text.
And just a mile from the vaunted “Reston Town Center”, we have strip malls with surface parking lots – the kind that get panned in urban planning books, yet they are filled with Afghan, Indian, and Ethiopian restaurants that could never afford the rent in a new development. These ethnic restaurant-filled strip malls are far more interesting and promising for our region’s future than the chain-filled fake city visible in the distance.
These mixed-use “lifestyle centers” or whatever advertising labels they’re getting now are not advancing suburbs anymore than shopping malls did in the 80s. A real place has real people with real problems or real successes that are evident to anyone walking by. This means homeless people, wealthy businessmen, immigrants, you name it. I am far more encouraged when I see a 2nd Koreatown emerging in my suburban county by chance, than when I see another heavily-planned, heavily-marketed open air mall with condos next door.
John Morris says
With any luck, there will be a market implosion forcing rents down to levels that will let people like that in, no doubt to the horror of current planners.
Aaron, I think you can now understand how rabid the small vocal minority opposition has been to change here in Carmel. To accomplish change of this magnitude it has taken strong leadership. I suspect polarization like this is no stranger to most communities that under go paradigm shifts and direction. The ultimate judge will be time. Just an FYI, you were correct that Carmel has the lowest tax rate of any city in the Indianapolis Metro area and the projections are taxes will remain flat for the distant future.
David said: “These mixed-use “lifestyle centers” or whatever advertising labels they’re getting now are not advancing suburbs anymore than shopping malls did in the 80s.”
As opposed to low-rent failing strip malls that attract owners of “ethnic” restaurants? How does that strategy for long-term success work? Step 1: Let your community decline to the point where commercial rental rates bottom out and under-capitalized businesses can move in? Anyone can be a critic. How about some actual solutions based in the real world of suburbia?
I don’t even live in Indiana, you can build whatever you want.
Just don’t give yourself the impression that you are creating anything new and distinctive. These are simply more bland “mixed-use” developments that look like the 37 others already out there. You mention change. The only “change” you’ve brought about is taking the roof off the mall. That doesn’t make the food taste any different at the Red Robin or Stone Cold Creamery, nor does it make Carmel any different from Reston, Stamford, Roswell, Evanston, Costa Mesa, Royal Oak, Bellevue, Beaverton, etc. Also, most good development doesn’t require defensive public relations from politicians, zoning officials, or real estate execs.
Aaron, you are usually more critical and thoughtful than this. I hope you aren’t planning more puff pieces for cheesy suburban developments like this one.
answer is not under-capitalized businesses, but local capital
New England is filled with mixed-income towns that support all kinds of interesting retail because they’re financed through local friendships, credit unions, and community banks, not through a score produced by a software program at BofA
Henry Jordan says
To aim: The issue with roundabouts is not only cost. In Carmel there has only been 2 accidents on record, one at a four way stop on Keystone, and the other on a new roundabout at 96th and Westfield. The latter cost 4 million dollars to build including the purchases of right of ways.
The four way accident included a fatality in the year 2000 which was tragic, and the other in 2007 or 08 which claimed the lives of two Hispanics who were said to be over the limit and considered illegally driving and drinking.
The whole concept of roundabouts are that they historically have shown to cause less injuries due to accidents over those of a four way stop. However, though Carmel has sustained only one fatality, there have been accidents that have been steadily increasing since the first installation in 2005. This can be verified by contacting the CPD. So what is the benefit here?
Now there are some interchanges that definitely can use interchanges like roundabouts, and that is well established. But Carmel, with 64 of them currently built, with an average cost including long term interest of about2 million apiece is ludicrous and a wasteful expense. Now Brainard wants to convert all 4 ways into roundabouts which exacerbates the situation. Needless to say the contractors are his campaign contributors.
Further, it takes 6 full time street department employees with full benefits to just maintain the existing roundabouts. That is their only work. The cost for that surely amounts to the hundreds of thousands per annum. So, it is not only cost, but there must be a benefit as well, and over half of the roundabouts in Carmel have no benefit, but are simply instances of pork spending by the Mayor.
Re: Bruce. Once again the public relations head on the internet has misrepresented information. In point of actual fact it is the town of Fishers that has the lowest tax rate in the general vicinity, not Carmel. Carmel’s tax rate has steadily increased over the last 4 years, and now it is faced with the 1% cap which will disallow further increases. So it will cause, undoubtedly, either a sales tax increase or a local option income tax such as the one in Indianapolis.
The issue of urbanization requires careful planning, and not a helter skelter approach where the concept is a field of dreams where if you build it people will come. For the Palladium it is dubious as to whether it will survive without multiple millions of city subsidies that Carmel cannot afford. The benefit to Carmel itself is arbitrary at best. As to Keystone, the benefit is now more to those living and commuting from Indy to Noblesville or Westfield, and not to Carmel residents who will pay the price of higher maintenance costs as well as more traffic.
The Mayor has not shown any personal and serious planning with his new urbanization like shoving an art district in the city where there is virtually no culture, and no background in art appreciation. Considering what is being displayed there I do not believe that his field of dreams concept will fly. It is no wonder there are a multitude of vacancies in the district, and some merchants hanging on by a wing and a prayer.
Carmel could have been the best city to live and work in, but the impending fiscal crisis will stifle that growth, and its importance potentially for decades to come. That will be the true legacy of Mayor James Brainard.
“The whole concept of roundabouts are that they historically have shown to cause less injuries due to accidents over those of a four way stop. However, though Carmel has sustained only one fatality, there have been accidents that have been steadily increasing since the first installation in 2005. This can be verified by contacting the CPD.”
Since you appear to be local to Carmel, I assume that you can provide the numbers that would back up the claim that the number of accidents has been increasing due to the installation of roundabouts. Any increase in traffic volume will typical result in increases in the total number of accidents. The question is whether roundabouts mitigate or exacerbate that trend. You claim that latter, which is contrary to anything I’ve read for studies related to these intersections. Also, roundabouts reduce idling, reduce delay time at intersections, reduce the number of stops for drivers and reduce the severity of crashes when they occur. You seem to place no value on those factors although I’m not sure why.
John Morris says
I really have to stop on this cause I don’t know much about it. Ethnic businesses are very often not “under-capitalized”, and owners often have low debt levels and make use of family and community networks. They are, however often too prudent and cheap to leap at stuff like this.
The chances of an area trying to amortize underground parking garages and the other stuff shown here and attract or retain even remotely interesting businesses are slim.
However, from a distance I smell blood and after the suckers have been wiped out, interesting things might happen.
Alon Levy says
Wad, John: if you want to see whether stadiums contribute to their neighborhoods, check out what happens in cities other than Chicago. Yes, Lakeview is nice. But the South Bronx and Willets Point aren’t.
And Aim, the “Anyone can be a critic” line is really bad. What you’re effectively saying is that people shouldn’t call a failure a failure. You clearly know a lot about urban planning – for example, about the reasons to build roundabouts. Do you know of any similar studies that argue that Carmel-style town centers encourage non-sterile development?
Henry Jordan says
To aim: First off you would have to contact the CPD to find out that the only accidents that are reported in RABs are those that must cause either an injury, fatality, or have at least $750 in auto damage. This skews the numbers in respect to coming to a conclusion as to the actual number of accidents that actually occur in Carmel. One thing is for sure, there is no comparative of accidents that are obtainable at the CPD, despite my efforts to get it, of how many accidents actually occurred prior to the installation of an RAB. It appears those totals were not very dramatic i speaking with some officers of the CPD.
Next, there are several interchanges on Springmill, Old Meridian, Illinois, and 116th Street that are virtually gridlocked during rush hour times primarily due to commute traffic from adjacent cities. Benefit?
I did not dispute the general information, especially from USDOT that roundabouts are safer than 4 way stops as a general rule, but you cannot surmise that all roundabouts are safe as with any gauge there are some that are safer than others. The statistics do have parameters.
But, you might recall that I advanced the proposition that having 64 roundabouts, many which are totally unnecessary like for example three way rather than the four way variety, are not conducive to being a benefit. When you spend 4 million for one roundabout vs. maintaining a 4 way stop costing a couple of hundred thousand to install plus maintenance then it is arbitrary as to whether it is fiscally sensible to build the roundabout.
Since I believe a basic need for a roundabout would be to increase the flow of traffic, and to prevent fatalities on the roadway, the roundabout program is questionable given the lack of a high number of accidents, more less fatalities in the city of Carmel over the last several decades. You must have a benefit to spend that kind of money, and the benefit is not there for most of those constructed or projected to be installed should Brainard be reelected.
If roundabout construction is safer overall then one might query why insurance rates for cars have increased rather than decreased in the area. Such should be hand in hand with the safety factor.
If you feel that spending $200 million including long term interest for roundabouts to day, and probably another $100 million before Brainard is through is fiscally responsible for a city soon to be a population of only 80,000 then that is your opinion. It is not mine.
Henry: I suspect that you are one of the dozen or so naysayers who have opposed everything Mayor Brainard has done for the past decade. The fact is, Brainard beat the “establishment” candidate in 1996 and the powers that were have never forgiven him. One of those is the Clerk-Treasurer, while another is the daughter of the former mayor whom Brainard beat, who now works for the Clerk-Treasurer.
I do live in Carmel, and have for 30 years. Keystone Avenue and several other roadways in Carmel were graded “D” or “F” by INDOT before they were re-constructed and roundabouts were added by Brainard. I live less than a quarter mile from Keystone, and I know of absolutely nobody who does not think that the “new” Keystone is wonderful, safe, and worth every penny spent on it. In fact, I know of only a handful of Carmel residents who do not appreciate the safety, elimination of idle time and savings of the cost of signal lights that almost all of the roundabouts bring to the city. I say “almost” because the first two, both on Hazel Dell Parkway, were built a little big, which does not require vehicles to slow down enough when entering them. You may disagree with Brainard’s new urbanism, but please do not suggest that traffic is worse with his road construction and reconfigurations. It is decidedly better.
“Do you know of any similar studies that argue that Carmel-style town centers encourage non-sterile development?”
Alon, I don’t agree with the foundation of David’s argument that the merits of an area can be divined by the presence or absence of corporate or chain businesses. “Chain” = bad is a criticism of corporate America. It tells us nothing about whether an urban model works or doesn’t work. A crappy auto-dependent strip mall isn’t going to transform the urban form of a community because it’s managed to attract a more diverse set of businesses. Perhaps David can explain how that happens.
Places like Carmel exist. For whatever reasons they have come into existence, the track record of suburban boomtowns is pretty poor. Most peak as they reach the end of their growth period which is followed by a long period of decline and decay. There are inner-ring suburbs and now-struggling edge cities across the US that stuck to the traditional model of suburban growth until it ran them into the ground. Places like Carmel are trying different models to see if they can change that trajectory. I don’t know if what Carmel is doing will work. Maybe it’s no more sustainable than the path that its predecessors followed. But I think its pretty clear that the traditional suburban model has shown that for most communities, it’s not sustainable. So it’s easy to critique the details of what Carmel is doing and to take digs at the chain stores and the “faux” urbanism. But I’m still waiting to hear what the alternatives are for places like Carmel.
Robert Brady says
Henry, it sounds as if you have an issue with Brainard no matter what he does…I firmly believe that you would probably be saying the same thing about traffic if the roundabouts were still stop signs. If you really want to complain about something in Carmel, please, mention the absurdly low speed limits in places…
On another note, Henry Jordan sounds a lot like a certain someone named Marnin Spigelman, a candidate for Carmel’s mayor in the last election. After losing in the Republican primary to Brainard, he entered as an independent. His campaign consisted of tirades on the good things about Carmel (roundabouts, some other stuff), as well as against the few bad things things in Carmel (mainly, the debt). He often launched personal attacks against people who either questioned his beliefs or had opinions different than his, calling them naive or telling them to stop drinking the mayor’s kool aid. Though he didn’t win the election, Spigelman and his supporters seem to still be writing editorial letters nonstop denouncing pretty much everything Brainard does. These letters sound eerily similar to Mr. Henry Jordan’s comments…
Alon, the track record of sports stadiums promoting development is “your mileage may vary.”
I am more like John in the regard that its a questionable method of jump-starting development. For one thing, major league venues are something only less than three dozen cities have to worry about.
Second, venues are terrible community investments overall. Look at the Field of Schemes blog to see the chicanery of the sports-industrial racket.
These venues are going to go somewhere, though. They consume mass quantities of land, and they are mostly inactive, so the places are left to suburban greenfields or urban areas on the margins.
The greenfield locations tend to emphasize easy automotive entry and exit, so they are either self-contained entities or augmented by development that looks like an airport-adjacent business district.
The marginal urban areas have development that’s hit-or-miss. The New York developments, and Detroit’s venues, are in areas where the population is too poor to support local businesses, and there isn’t a secondary market (such as central business district workers or convention-goers) to support businesses during downtimes. If there is a secondary market, then the development has a better chance of success.
The comments are a bit amusing: Most of the criticisms directed at Carmel (my aunt and uncle live there, so I am familiar with the town) seem to be based on subjective matters, such as aesthetics. Well, if you don’t like how a place looks, then don’t live there, but it is difficult to make an argument that your personal tastes have any relevance beyond you. Moreover, millions of people seem to have already voted with their feet by choosing to live in so-called “cheesy” suburbs such as Carmel–sorry urban lovers. (I don’t dislike cities, I live in San Francisco. However, I realize that big cities appeal to a limited demographic, have a limited amount of space for new housing–and therefore, new residents–and have a variety of challenges, such as serious budget deficits, crime, deteriorating public services, etc). As for the comments criticizing Carmel’s finances, I find the lack of citations to any supporting authority to be very telling. Also, increased municipal debt is not necessarily a bad thing, so long as the municipality can afford to make the interest payments and isn’t putting a disproportionate amount of its budget toward paying interest. Carmel is a very affluent community with a high level of public services and a low property tax rate by Indiana standards (and Indiana has rather low property taxes by national standards). Whether Fishers, or some other Indiana municipality has a lower tax rate or not isn’t particularly relevant to the discussion. Finally, the folks who want to engage in a debate about the merits of municipal sports stadiums seem to be discussing a different article–Carmel is building a performing arts center (something which many affluent suburbs have), not a sports stadium.
Chris, the “something which many affluent suburbs have” comment is telling about Carmel’s decision to build a performing arts center.
Carmel wants to join the herd rather than break away from it.
The herd has many of these performing arts centers, as suburbs find it a good way to blend philanthropy (these are usually nonprofit entities set up) and fiscalization of land use. A portion of ticket sales goes into city coffers, and these centers also attract things like upscale restaurants, helping to goose tax receipts.
If it doesn’t have an ensemble to showcase (like an Indiana Chamber Orchestra or some such), then it must book talent. As more cities start to build performing arts spaces, the talent pool doesn’t correspondingly widen. In the first few years, Carmel, like most new performance venues, can lock up top name acts. Yet the ability to lock in performers with high marquee value tapers off over time.
Another concern raised by performing arts professionals is the grayness of the audience. Older audiences tend to be the most loyal patrons through attendance and financial support. They also tend to dominate the calendar, and their selections lean to the familiar and nostalgic. (It used to be called “conservative,” but the word has become so loaded its pointless to use it.) An audience stasis develops, and it becomes harder to showcase something that is out of their artistic or financial comfort zone.
Carmel will get itself a performing arts center. How it will fill the calendar is the next challenge.
Strip malls are no different than established New England town centers in that the new tenants finance themselves, they’re not part of some megadevelopment with national bank or worse, TIF financing.
TIF financing, like that used by Carmel, almost always creates crappy, chain-restaurant pretend cities where if you walk down the “street”, you feel that Goofy and Donald Duck could pop out at any minute and shake your hand. While TIFs allow the developer to borrow at the municipality’s very low cost of capital, they are still large and risky, so no bond underwriter will go near them if you don’t have a familiar roster of Quizno’s, Panera, Cheesecake Factory type tenants in the pipeline.
Real suburban redevelopment, the kind that doesn’t get hyped in the press or rest on a foundation of shaky TIF financing, draws capital from local banks, local people, and occurs slowly – without circle jerk award ceremonies for the architects. And it’s rare to find many vacancies in the developments around here with local merchants or ethnic restaurants. When one fails, there’s usually another to take its place. Not being part of a large chain that depends on distant lenders who in turn depend on conditions in the credit markets, these merchants don’t suffer as badly during recessions.
We’re seeing a redevelopment happening this way in the DC area in the city of Falls Church, Virginia. Local merchants started setting up there because it was cheaper than neighboring Arlington, and there were moderate rent single store and small strip developments where they could locate. These unique merchants started attracting shoppers from a wide area, which in turn got the SINGLE-USE developers to build condos and apartments nearby, which in turn added to the number of pedestrians on the real, not manufactured, main street, which in turn attracted more local merchants which in turn is bringing in even more pedestrians and so on. This whole process has taken 15 years and is not close to being complete.
Rather than allowing things to happen slowly and naturally, Reston and Carmel went for the big bang theory of suburban redevelopment, and have ended up with a lot of fake looking junk. The better model is Falls Church or Guilford, Connecticut where the financing is local and private, not “public/private”, but the streets are public, not tucked away in a private development patrolled by mall cops.
You’ll find TIF financing at work in almost every downtown in Michigan from the smallest to the largest. They’re generally authorized by Downtown Development Authorities and if you believe that TIF districts automatically leads to chain stores and fake downtowns, you need to explain why there are 100 counter-examples in small cities and villages in Michigan that don’t have a chain store in sight.
The Urbanophile says
Thank you for the comments.
First, there are frequently local message board wars about these policies, and it seems to have migrated here. Keep that in mind.
Second, regarding chains, Carmel has a general anti-chain bias. The Main St./Arts & Design District was heavily TIF financed, but doesn’t have any chains that I know of. I actually wish it had a Starbucks. Also, the city went out of its way to make multiple of the buildings retail condominiums that the developers were required to sell to local small businesses. Whether that was a good idea remains to be seen, but the intent was to keep potentially rising rents from pricing them out. I don’t have a list of City Center retailers but I doubt it will be loaded up with Best Buy and such like Atlantic Station or others are.
I might even suggest the lack of chains indicates there may be some financial model difficulties in these developments. I don’t hate chains. Even Manhattan is loaded with them. Having some major chains can be a good thing. If you don’t have any, why are they staying away? And frankly, Hoosiers like chains and there isn’t a strong tradition of independent businesses in the Indianapolis area, so without chains, will the people really come over the long haul? We’ll see.
I should also note that Carmel, like a number of upscale suburbs, has made it a policy to discourage or limit corporate branding architecture. They generally expect chains to design stores that look like Carmel’s desired aesthetic.
Henry Jordan says
To Bucky: Thank you Bucky for demonstrating in your message on how the typical Carmel residents likes the aesthetics, and not the details. I suppose it would be alright if Carmel went broke, and your taxes skyrocketed as long as you could look at all the pretties in your area.
By the way, I didn’t say the Keystone was a waste, but it could have been done more economically within the boundaries of the state money tendered which was $90 million. The issue is more that the Mayor told us all the project would cost $78 million with the balance left in a fund for maintenance. It is now over $112 million (though we haven’t been provided all the details or diversions of costs to other departments), and has yet to be completed.
Nor can you say that Carmel would afford it all if last year Brainard had to beg for a $20 million advance on the state’s last payment in order to continue construction which might tell some people who choose to think about the state of Carmel’s affairs that all is not well financially in the city.
I don’t want to burden you with details because you apparently don’t care. On the other hand, as far as safety is concerned, the 106th St. and 116th street off ramps to the tear drop roundabouts are very dangerous requiring one to shift their bodies and turn their heads way to the left in order to see oncoming traffic. Plus, with the enormous traffic going across both of those bridges to exit during rush hour times is a long wait that builds up a queue on Keystone.
Safety is fine, but sensible planning is another. No one had ever done these type of throughway bridges before, and I hope the next city that does them will think more about sensible planning, and safety.
Henry Jordan says
To Robert Brady: And thank you Robert for thinking that many Carmel residents are stupid, and don’t have the brains enough to be able to question or write about their government, and its actions.
By the way it’s a compliment to be compared to Spigelman who not only looked at the accomplishments, but also at the fiscal condition of the city. For you apparently the only meaningful thing is the former, and the latter if of no consequence or interest.
I have been a resident of Carmel for decades, while Spigelman has been around for about 4 or 5 years and seems to talk about the details which you apparently abhor. I do appreciate such discussions, and do not view them as being negative or complaining, but a discussion of the issues related to Carmel and its financial situation.
Frankly I think that Brainard did a super job in his first 8 years, and I have very little if anything to question in respect to that period. But his planning of the Palladium, the so called Art and Design District, and the roundabouts (note I didn’t include Keystone even though he misrepresented the costs) have pushed the button on Carmel’s fiscal condition.
The city has little money in the general fund, and is pushing to dilute the rainy day fund to zero to pay the bills. The CRC is down to their last $100K after squandering business taxes and subsidizing ADD merchants. The Palladium Foundation is broke now begging for resident taxpayer support. But you find that such circumstances only relate to complaining by people like myself who are concerned about such situations.
It is for that reason that Carmel continues to vote for Brainard despite the fact that he is literally bankrupting the city. But hey, you and folks like Bucky don’t care, and I suppose if taxes go up or you have an ad-valorem tax payment to make you’ll just move out of town and let the rest of us foot the bill.
That sir spells the pathetic position of too many Carmel voters, and will probably be the case again in 2011. The fact that Brainard won the election by getting only 20% of registered voters in 2007 says mountains about the apathy in Carmel. The two opponents together got over 4600 votes which has something to say that there is more discontent and opposition than folks like you would lead us all to believe.
Good luck in your stasis state of fantasyland!
Henry Jordan says
To Chris: Lack of citations is telling, you say. Have you been reading here, or the Indy Star, or watching our TV news reports? Another case of folks being absolutely out to lunch about what’s going on in Carmel because of the total lack of attention or caring.
You want some citations, though I suspect you could care less since you don’t live here and just like to criticize…go to the Clerk Treasurers office and request the details of all that has been written. You’ll get more citations then you’ll be able to handle.
Henry Jordan says
To Urbanophile: No local forum war here as I don’t write on any forum. Next, you might have missed branded looking stores in the Clay Terrace strip mall area, like Red Robin, the old Circuit City store, Dicks Sporting Goods, and Whole Foods. That doesn’t seem to be a complete discouragement of brand name chain stores.
You are right about the ADD District, but many of the stores there have failed, and others are struggling. Starbucks would be a loss there because traffic is very low on those streets, and there is not a bevy of high rise office buildings to feed revenues. Even the new restaurants on Main Street are struggling to get customers. The survivors seem to be the butcher shop and a couple of the old time restaurants and tavern, but the art venues are sitting around struggling with little or no sales to support their businesses (which is why their rents are probably being subsidized by the CRC).
As far as a list of City Center stores are concerned don’t hold your breath to get the details as nothing has been mentioned as to any firm contractual leases being inked. Nor do you apparently know of the rip-off deal to Carmel taxpayers that Brainard and the CRC made with the Indy Civic Theater of which the biggest detail is that they get a 50% fee simple in the 500 seat Main Stage Theater, which will cost over $25 million + interest (could end up being as much as $60 million total) when all is said and done, for only $10 million interest free over a payment period of 30 years.
Great deal, right Mr. Urbanophile. Yes, keep on lauding the great achievements of Carmel that doesn’t look as pretty under the covers of financial reality. (facts can be verified at the Carmel Clerk-Treasurers offices).
The Urbanophile says
Spiegleman, I’m sorry you have to go poison ever discussion. I’m locking this thread.