Carmel, Indiana — Demonstrating the Power of Placemaking
This post was originally published on panethos.wordpress.com.
Kudos to Carmel. No…I am not talking about Carmel, California, which is indeed a gorgeous town overlooking the Pacific Ocean. In this case I am complimenting Carmel, Indiana, a large suburb of approximately 80,000 residents located just north of Indianapolis. When I was growing up in Indy (way back when), Carmel was largely nondescript, with sprawling subdivisions across cornfields. It was best known for powerhouse football and basketball teams and the Carmel movie theater (sadly no longer there). The downtown area at the time was very small and other than the theater was largely underutilized.
Today, aside from high school sports, Carmel is also a clear trendsetter in place making. The current header for Panethos was taken at one of many roundabouts in the city with a lovely fountain in the center and mixed use developments bordering on two sides. Carmel has the distinction of having more roundabouts than any other city in the United States (60+), including several impressive ones built over State Route 431 (Keystone Parkway) in order to make it a limited access parkway.
Artwork and sculptures line the downtown streets, while a magnificent performing arts center (The Palladium) recently opened at the south end of downtown. All these items are linked by an impressive and growing network of paved trails/greenways for bicyclists, pedestrians, joggers, and other trail users. Among them are the Monon Greenway and White River Greenway.
Carmel may not be perfect in the eyes of all urban planners, but the city has made huge strides to create an urban center, add placemaking features, increase density, and improve walkability and bikeability. I was pleasantly surprised and quite impressed during a tour of the city on Christmas Eve.
My own preference would be for the city to focus its density and placemaking efforts in the downtown area and surrounding vicinity before trying to create new areas of density via new urbanism projects like West Clay on greenfield sites. Got to admit the art-deco CVS store in the adjacent photograph is cool from an architectural standpoint, but seems quite out-of-place where it is located nearly surrounded by undeveloped greenfields. In addition, transit options need to be enhanced and expanded to further reduce automobile dependency and to give the disadvantaged more access.
Below are a few photos taken of the reinvigorated heart of Carmel, Indiana from just last Saturday. No longer just sprawling subdivisions and bland shopping centers, there is indeed a place there. Kudos to the City of Carmel and its residents and best wishes on their continued success.