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Carmel, Indiana, a suburb of more than 90,000 people bordering on Indianapolis, is building a walkable urban downtown to fit its growing population and economy.
Main Street and the Arts and Design District have already been revitalized with restaurants and art galleries. City Center, a half-mile to the south, is a world-class performing arts complex built by the city. Between the two is a former industrial area where the city is promoting mixed-use development—including new headquarters of corporations that are relocating to the city.
The new, 140-foot-wide Monon Boulevard—built on the site of a rails-to-trails path—is the impressive centerpiece of that area, now called Midtown.
The $23 million boulevard—a complete street and public space—is already paying off, with $175 million in private sector redevelopment nearby, even before phase one of the boulevard is complete. The investment includes corporate offices and headquarters, apartment buildings, a distillery, restaurants, and other uses.
“This investment supports our plans for future growth, delivers the best possible work environment to our employees, and further demonstrates our commitment to support the community that has given us so much,” explains Pete Hilger, chief executive officer of Allied Solutions, which recently built a $33 million headquarters in Midtown.
Work on the boulevard and adjacent properties is being completed simultaneously. Some of the adjacent mixed-use projects were completed in 2018, and some are still under construction.
Both ends of the boulevard connect to the existing Monon Greenway—a former rail right of way—giving residents of the new downtown access to nature and opportunities for active recreation. Within Midtown, the trail transforms into the boulevard, with small plazas and gathering spaces with public art, spray fountains, bocce courts, and places for quiet relaxation and performances.
Planner Jeff Speck elaborated on the design: “The ‘Aha’ moment was realizing that the regional trail, previously buried at the center of its blocks, could be daylighted as the median of a new boulevard. Some people blanched at the idea of exposing the trail to urbanism, but I was confident that the right street design could actually enhance the recreational experience. To his credit, Mayor Brainard never doubted this logic.”
With an expanded right-of-way, the original 12-foot-wide asphalt path is replaced with a walking/jogging path flanked by bike lanes—each separated by landscaped buffers. Low-speed vehicular roadways are located on each side of the median, with parking on outer edges. Wide sidewalks with trees complete the cross-section that accommodates a wide range of multimodal transportation. At key points along the Boulevard, new gathering spaces invite residents of all ages to interact with the built environment. Phase two will include a plaza that will serve as the heart of the city.
“This new expanded Monon Boulevard will quickly become a major epicenter of activity in Midtown and the Arts and Design District,” says Mayor Jim Brainard.
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