What You Need to Know About Carmel, Indiana
Original Publishing date: January 2018. Updated December 2019
Over the past two decades, the city of Carmel, under the leadership of Mayor Jim Brainard, has grown from a rather typical north suburban car-centric city to a world-renowned city known for its infrastructure, development and redevelopment, arts and entertainment, diverse culture and, of course, roundabouts. Most cities would take a few centuries to achieve the milestones that Carmel has in 20 years. The city has become a model for modern urban planning around the world.
We took a brief look at some of the city’s greatest achievements and most dramatic changes to the landscape over the last 20 years with Mayor Brainard. We also speculated on what the future may hold for the city through the mayor’s eyes.
The History of City of Carmel Redevelopment
According to the Carmel Central City Core Redevelopment Study completed by Indiana University Public Policy Institute, the city has more than tripled its population from 1990 to 2010 and was estimated at 86,946 in 2017.
Since Mayor Brainard took office in 1996, several improvements to the city’s infrastructure, the development of the outlier areas and redevelopment of the inner core have been started and completed, and new projects are in process as the city continues to grow and evolve.
In the summer of 1997, public discussion of City Center began during a time when Indiana suburbs were developing strip centers, regional malls and market-driven subdivisions with minimal entry points that prohibit expedient entry and exit for the various public safety agencies. The mayor had another vision, and the City took steps toward creating a downtown redevelopment and “urban place-making” initiative. The significant construction in the redevelopment areas has earned national and international accolades.
To the west of downtown Carmel, Brenwick Development and a group of selected, high-end custom homebuilders began building an architectural marvel known as the Village of WestClay. The developers broke ground on the then 686-acre Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND) in 1999 and introduced a whole new concept of neighborhood planning and living to Indiana with its Broad Street Home Show in July 2000.
Carmel adopted the City Center Redevelopment Area Plan in 1998. The plan was for City Center to become a focal point and gathering place for residents and tourists. In February 2000, the Redevelopment Commission entered into a project agreement with AMLI Residential Properties for what was the first CRC mixed-use development project in the Arts & Design District (312 market rate apartments). In June 2001, the construction of the first commercial building (Kestner Building) in City Center commenced. The construction of the Monon Greenway is completed.
In 2002, the former Kroger grocery store was demolished, and the Ryland Townhomes and former Shapiro’s Deli complex construction began. In 2003, Pedcor Headquarters in City Center began construction and was completed in 2004. Also in 2004, the groundbreaking for the Carmel Clay Veterans Memorial Plaza began.
In the fall of 2004, Pedcor was awarded the bid for City Center and broke ground in 2006. The construction of the Palladium, The Tarkington and The Studio Theater began in 2007. Construction on the Lurie building began in the Arts & Design District. In the same year, Mayor Brainard won the primary election with 59 percent of the vote. The changes within and around the city were causing buzz all over the county and throughout central Indiana.
Throughout the years of the recession, the city, like the rest of the nation, felt the financial impact. However, while construction in the commercial sector slowed, it did not come to a screeching halt. The projects that were slated to begin were delayed, but the projects that were underway continued throughout the peak of the nation’s worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
According to the IU study, between the years 2004 and 2014, 565 building permits had been issued. Carmel had big projects going on during the recession. There was approximately $250 million of construction at a time when nothing else was going on. The City continued to invest during that period, and those investments are paying off.
In 2009, construction began on Sophia Square, a mixed-use building in the Arts & Design District with 202 residential units, an underground parking garage and over 45,000 sq. ft. of ground floor retail space.
The Indiana Design Center opened in 2010 and is home to businesses such as Blue Moon Café and Holder Mattress Company.
With much pomp and circumstance, the Palladium opened its doors in January 2011, followed by The Tarkington and The Studio Theater in August of the same year. The venues continue to draw international, national and local talent for its patrons and provide numerous outreach programs for youth throughout central Indiana.
In the spring of 2011, Brainard won the primary election with 62 percent of the vote. He would go on to win the 2015 primary with 63 percent of the vote. “We had several projects going in 1997,” Brainard recalled. “Some of our first projects in our administration were focused on redoing the streets in what is now the Arts & Design District.
We rebuilt, starting with 1st Avenue N.W., almost all of the streets in that area. We added curbs and sidewalks. There hadn’t been sidewalks built since the early 1900s. We installed period street lights and put frames around the signage to create a special look. The City was in the process of starting to buy, through the Redevelopment Commission, the 88 acres which became the City Center. We were doing the initial master planning of that area for a new downtown for Carmel, knowing that the old town area wasn’t large enough to be a downtown for our geographic area.”
The mayor also mentioned that during 1997, the City decided to connect and widen Pennsylvania Street from 103rd to 131st Streets. That bond has been paid off. One of the biggest projects that year was the construction of Hazel Dell Parkway.
“In 1997, we were in negotiations for Central Park, were expanding Meadowlark Park and getting ready to start on West Park, trying to build that supply of park land,” Brainard said. “We were starting to work on the Monon Trail and were acquiring 246 parcels [when we got] involved in a class action suit between the landowners and CSX Transport over who got the City’s money. We had to close into escrows because we didn’t know who was going to win that class action suit. The landowners were arguing and eventually prevailed in almost all cases that these were reversionary deeds which were reverted back to the parcel in which they had been separated back in the 1860s when the train line was active. It was very difficult to acquire all of those parcels in Carmel at that time.”
Brainard continued, “We engaged in a tough discussion with the community about why Clay Township, all of it in the school system area, ought to be a part of the city of Carmel,” he said. “I had suggested, though it was very controversial, that the township combine with the city. At that time, Indiana law didn’t allow for a vote to do that. We had to do it by annexation. Today, the law does allow for a vote. I had suggested that the legislature reform that law, and eventually former Governor Mitch Daniels got that changed.”
Brainard explained that in 1997, there were a lot of unincorporated “holes” throughout parts of Carmel, and it made for inefficient delivery of services. “A blue car would go to the house on a street, and a brown sheriff’s car would go to the house next door,” Brainard explained. “A part of a street would be paved by the County, and the next half of a mile would be paved by the City. It made no sense at all. That’s one of the reasons why our tax rates have declined is because we’ve become much more efficient as a result of the earlier annexations. These improvements were important to the tax base that we built over the next decade and a half.”
Brainard continued, “When Brenwick was looking at developing the land that is now the Village of WestClay, the City had zoning jurisdiction over the area, but it wasn’t in charge of the streets at that time. I remember asking George Sweet [Brenwick Development] if they would consider doing a new urbanism community. George was known for quality building and developments. The project was turned down twice by the planning commission and then unanimously approved by the city council.
In 1999, Mr. Jesse Cox and his wife Beulah donated their land that lies to the south of WestClay to the Hamilton County Parks and Recreation Department. It is what people know and enjoy as Coxhall Gardens.”
What many people may not know about Coxhall Gardens is that the two 90-foot twin bell towers that stand to the east and west of the gardens are the only two like-towers that stand on the same site anywhere in the world.
They are interconnected with fiber to play simultaneously and can be played manually or electronically. One tower houses the commemorative bell that was cast on site during a ceremony where attendees were able to take home miniature commemorative bells.
When asked what moments he felt shifted the trajectory of the city in a positive and forward motion towards becoming what Carmel is today, Brainard replied with his key moments.
“The Monon Trail, the roads and infrastructure including the roundabouts, maintaining low taxes and a good tax climate, our City Center and Arts & Design District, in addition to our great schools and library, are some of the amenities and projects that I am most proud of. All of our cultural amenities too as it’s unusual for a suburb to have what we do. We have more diversity, and as a result, more corporate headquarters are locating here because they know that all of their employees will enjoy living here.”
Looking off into the future, Brainard said with conviction that he believes there will be some type of center core transportation system in Carmel in the upcoming years. Perhaps a streetcar system of some kind will make it easier for people to cut back to one car if they want to.
“I believe that in 20 years, we will have autonomous cars, and as a result, they will be able to drop you off at the door and then go park themselves,” Brainard predicted. “I also think we’ll see the land along U.S. 31, all of the existing big parking lots, developed, and the parking will be underground. The parking lots will become little villages around the high-rise and big office buildings with pocket parks and plazas in the dense areas. I would hope that we see some sort of transportation connection aside from cars with the city of Indianapolis in 20 years.”
A Campfire Story: The Carmel Motel
Once upon a time, there was a motel located west of U.S. 31 known as the Carmel Motel. For residents of Carmel who lived in the city during the late 1990s, the motel was nothing more than suburban blight, but in the 1950s, it was actually a nice property and pit stop for travelers.
“On August 8, 1997, we raided the Carmel Motel,” Brainard said. “It was a Friday evening. We went after work when they least expected. We arrived with half a dozen government agencies, including a Vice officer who was on loan to us from then-Mayor Steve Goldsmith. She had experience with Vice operations in Detroit and had been working with us for several weeks to shut the motel down. We were going after the motel for several violations, including child labor violations, gambling and drug violations, not to mention two murders that occurred onsite within a few months of each other. The motel had become, in essence, a tenement apartment building. The pool was green and mucky. People had put metal down on the floor where they would build fires to keep warm when the owner would shut off heat to the rooms.”
Brainard concluded, “The owner appealed to the court system and asked for an injunction to stay open, but once Judge Nation saw the photos, the appeal was denied. The owner followed the law and demolished the building as he was instructed to do by the City of Carmel. The property became part of the Clay Terrace development a few years later.”
Learn what redevelopment initiatives help to attract Millenials in this story.
Learn about the latest commercial real estate developments in Carmel
The Evolution of Carmel Chamber of Conmmerce
The Carmel Chamber has served the local business community since its inception in 1970 and has evolved with the growth of the city and changing business culture with each passing decade.
For the last seventeen years, the Carmel Chamber of commerce has been under the stewardship its president, Mo Merhoff. Merhoff became president in 2000 after the retirement of the late Nancy Blondin. Blondin retired in 2000 after serving as the chamber director since 1986.
Blondin’s name is honored through the OneZone Nancy Blondin scholarship, which awards $1,000 a year for four years to children of business owners that are members of the organization. The award was established after her retirement in 2000.
The organization recognized the need to involve and to develop it young professional members and so in 2006 the Carmel Chamber Young Professionals Group, Arrows, was founded. The young professionals group continues to be run by a committee of YP chamber members and is dedicated to connecting YPs under 40 through social networking, professional development, volunteerism and educational events. The group is now known as the OneZone Young Professionals Group after the merger of the Carmel and Fishers Chambers of Commerce.
OneZone Chambers of Commerce
Recognizing that commerce doesn’t stop at municipal borders, the boards of directors and members of the Carmel and Fishers Chambers of Commerce voted in February, 2015 to merge. The new organization, formed to more efficiently and better promote the business interests of our members, is called OneZone. The organization has approximately 1,300 members and is a significant presence and business advocate in an ever-changing marketplace.
OneZone is a strong advocate for it members in both communities though it has maintained its respective committees that focus on its city of origin’s specific needs and issues. For instance, the Carmel Advocacy Council’s purpose is to develop OneZone’s annual policy agenda for Carmel issues and to make recommendations to the Board of Directors on issues brought by members and those that develop throughout the year requiring the organization’s response.
OneZone focuses on priorities and issues at a local, state and even a federal level that impact local businesses. Issues such as education; economic development, mass transit, regional cooperation, workforce development, healthcare and several other topics.
We asked Merhoff how she and the board members plan to maintain relevancy going forward in the 21st century and what are some of the achievements that she is most proud of throughout her tenure with OneZone.
“One thing that our members are telling us that they want our community to have a bigger voice,” Merhoff said. “When you have a chamber the size that we are, what is wrong with Carmel, Fishers, Hamilton County being a louder voice locally, county-wide and certainly at the state house? Business voice matters because when you show me a thriving city that is strong and vibrant, there’s a strong and vibrant business community within that city. They go hand in hand.”
Merhoff emphasized that OneZone continues to strive to find ways to ensure that the communities that they serve, Carmel and Fishers, are the best places to build businesses and the organization will continue to advocate for zoning ordinances to make it easier for businesses. She also spoke about current trends and what businesses are looking for in the modern era as opposed to twenty years ago.
“Tomorrow’s business doesn’t want the high rise and concrete,” she explained. “They want amenities. They want walkability. They want similar amenities to the ones they have in their residences. That’s one of the reasons why Midtown is so popular and its where businesses want to be.”
Merhoff spoke about the success of the Meridian Street Corridor along U.S. 31 in Carmel between 96th and 146th Streets. Originally when the U.S. 31 Highway Overlay project was studied and approved, in the early 2000s, it grew to become the economic engine for the business community in Carmel.
“To this day, the second largest number of office employees in the state lies on U.S. 31 between 96th and 146th streets. This has been an economic engine that has served Carmel very well. If we want to maintain that marvelous business corridor, we are going to have to change it because business corridors around the country are drying up. Perhaps, in another 10-15 years, someone may want to have a condo on the top floor of those high rise buildings. It would be attractive, especially if there is a restaurant within walking distance. That is just an example of the city’s ability to think forward on the next trend. Lee Fisher, senior advisor for CEOs for Cities, said at our luncheon, ‘You need the speed to skate where the puck is going.’ Carmel has been pretty good about figuring out where the puck is going and getting there.”
Merhoff concluded. “Carmel has forged head with things that have proven to be on the leading edge of what people are after. I think that’s one of the strengths. Business want to be where they have the environment to thrive and that means the ability to show employees all of the things they can do here. Creating places and that not just for people but for businesses and realizing that what they want for their businesses is evolving. One of our major stakeholders said when we told him that we were merging, ‘You can make bold change from divisions; desperation or aspiration.’ In OneZone’s case, merging and becoming a stronger voice was one of the best things that we’ve ever done and the right thing to do for businesses.”
Learn more about Jack Russell – chief operating officer at OneZone
ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT: Cultivating the Culture in the City
Like Rome, the culture of Carmel wasn’t created in a day. Over the decades, the city and its leadership have continued to support existing cultural elements and create additional amenities for the community to enjoy.
The development of The Center for the Performing Arts and Center Green have provided the opportunity to host popular markets and special events like a historic event held for the United States Conference of Mayors in June 2016. Mayors representing cities from all over the nation congregated for a fun-filled evening that began at The Center and concluded on Main Street with several Carmel residents in attendance.
Each November, since 2017, the Center Green, located between the Palladium and The Tarkington/The Studio Theater , has been transformed in to a winter wonderland called the Carmel Christkindlmarkt and Ice at Center Green. The Carmel Christkindlmarkt is a German market with individual huts selling authentic German holiday products, food and beverages that encircle a large ice skating rink. It is simply a spectacular setting to enjoy a winter day and to create a family holiday tradition of food, shopping and skating.
The Carmel Christkindlmarkt and Ice at Center Green have been a raging success in bringing visitors to downtown Carmel during the holiday season and into the winter. In 2018, Christkindlmarkt had 328,000 visitors.
In 2018, and as first reported by Carmel Monthly, the Carmel Christkindlmarkt added its newest attraction, the Glühwein Pyramid. German-built by Steinbach GmbH, world renown for its production of nutcrackers, this 33-foot tall structure is presently the only one of its kind in the United States. The pyramid is adorned with 3,000 lights and Christmas-themed figures. Carmel’s Glühwein Pyramid has multiple taps, serving around 13 different kinds of Glühwein, including Glühbier brewed by Liefmans Brewery out of Belgium.
Rico Paul, CEO of Steinbach, when asked what he thought of the Carmel Christkindlmarkt compared to other Christkindlmarkts throughout the U.S. and Europe, replied, “First of all, it is professionally managed. The huts are beautiful, and you can see the details and pride that Mayor Brainard, Maria and Brian have in taking care that it looks like any of the traditional markets in Germany. I have seen other markets in the U.S., and they use tents and don’t have authentic vendors. Here [Carmel], they try to have vendors from Germany represented and products from Germany. With the ice rink in the middle and to come here at night and see all the lights, it is just beautiful. You can smell the bratwurst and the sweets, and now you can enjoy the different kinds of Glühwein as well.”
New for 2019 is the addition of a Kulturecke—a German history museum. It will be just south of the Palladium steps in a 12-by-30-foot hut that has been transformed into a cultural center displaying, not only German holiday traditions, but also showcasing Indiana’s deep-rooted German American heritage and the impact that it’s had on Hoosier commerce and society. Watch our exclusive interview with Maria Murphy, CEO of the Christkindlmarkt discussing the Kulturecke, or see our story.
Carmel Farmers Market
Every Saturday during the summer months from May to September, the Center Green, which is just off the MononTrail, is also home to the Carmel Farmers Market. The market provides a perfect destination for people enjoying a Saturday morning walk or bike ride. For the past three years, Carmel Monthly has proudly been the sole media sponsor of the Carmel Farmers Market.
The Carmel Farmers Market was founded in 1998 and is one of the largest in the state with vendors who sell their Indiana-grown and/or produced edible products. The market is managed by a dedicated all-volunteer committee. Periodically, we spotlight long time volunteers like Doug Dolen.
In addition to offering local produce and other food vendors, the Carmel Farmers Market also provides each week local musical entertainment.
Meet some of the market vendors
Visit carmelfarmersmarket.com for details.
In the winter months on every Saturday mornings from October thru March, the Carmel Farmers Market moves indoors to the Wire Factory located at 510 SW 3rd Street.
The market location is easily found on 3rd Street, just look for the large mural of bunnies and vegetables on the buildings exterior walls that are the work of internationally known graffiti artist Jules Muck.
According to Carmel Farmers Market President Ron Carter, “We were able to accomplish three things by working with Jules. First, we were able to continue adding in a meaningful way to the artistic culture of Carmel by bringing a nationally recognized art installation to the city. Second, we were able to bring much higher visibility to the site of the Winter Market. When people ask us where the market is located, instead of telling them it is right across the street from the water tower, we can now tell them to just look for the bunnies on the building. Third, we wanted to bring a sense of whimsy to the area that would appeal to everyone, no matter their age.” Carmel Monthly’s full story on the mural
The Center for the Performing Arts
Neighboring the Center Green, The Palladium, The Tarkington and The Studio Theater are more than just architectural marvels. They are destinations for concert-goers and enthusiasts of the arts.
The Center hosts a variety of entertainers from around the globe. It is also home to some of the area’s finest performers and hosts a variety of educational and outreach programs for youth from all over the state of Indiana.
For example, The Songbook Academy® is a summer music intensive for young singers who have an interest in the American Songbook. Students who love the music of classic Broadway shows, jazz and popular music have the life-changing opportunity to work with music industry professionals, award-winning singers and performers and educators from the top University music and theater programs in the country.
Recently, Actors Theatre of Indiana (ATI) announced its new program, Theatre Immersion Experience 2018. This program is designed for students who are dedicated, passionate and creative and wanting to grow their theater skills in a unique “hands-on” way.
ATI is a professional, not-for-profit theater organization of local and national artists dedicated to excellence in theatre production for a diverse patron base in Carmel and central Indiana. ATI enriches the culture of the community and uses theater as a tool for educational engagement. ATI calls The Studio Theater its home. Construction began on The Tarkington and The Studio Theater, along with the Palladium, in 2007, and they opened in 2011. Learn more about ATI’s co-founders Don Farrell and other actors.
Watch Carmel Monthly interview with Janna Hymes about Carmel Symphony Orchestra 2019-2020 season.
Actors Theatre of Indiana Programs
The development of the Center has made the programs of these institutions possible and is a vital part of the thriving arts culture in Carmel. Learn about the lates programming of Carmel Symphony Orchestra.
Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre Programs
Michael Feinstein – The Ambassador of the Great American Songbook
Artistic Director Michael Feinstein, the multi-platinum selling, five-time GRAMMY-nominated entertainer dubbed “The Ambassador of the Great American Songbook,” is considered one of the premier interpreters of American Popular Song. More than a mere performer, he is nationally recognized for his commitment to the American Popular Song, both celebrating its art and preserving its legacy for the next generation. In addition to serving as Artistic Director, Feinstein performs frequently at the Center for the Performing Arts and assists with programming. He signed on in 2009.
In a previous interview that we had with Feinstein, he shared his sentiments about the eventual creation of The Great American Songbook Museum in Carmel, a future goal for the Great American Songbook Foundation.
The Great American Songbook Foundation joined locations throughout the world as a cultural affiliate of the GRAMMY Museum, based in Los Angeles, in 2017. The affiliation gives the nonprofit access to GRAMMY Museum exhibitions, technical support and research programs and may have inched Feinstein’s dream of a Carmel-based museum a bit closer to reaching fruition.
“It’s been a dream come true to see the growth of this organization, which was not possible without the affiliation with the City of Carmel,” Feinstein emphasized. “It never would’ve happened otherwise. It is the lifeblood of the community that gives us the support, in every sense of that word, to grow our mission. Our focus over the next couple of years is to build a museum, which, step-by-step, is becoming more of a reality. We are so excited to see how that is coming to fruition.
“The Great American Songbook Museum will be a destination both physically and virtually for the city. It will change the complexion of the community even more in a positive way. Just as Cleveland has the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Nashville has the Country Music Hall of Fame, I think that it is going to be very significant for the city to have the Songbook Museum located in Carmel. I say that from the response that I have received from people around the country and the world. They are so excited for the eventual creation and opening of the Great American Songbook Museum.”
Jeff McDermott – Center’s for Performing Art CEO and President
Along with the board of directors, the Center’s CEO and President Jeff McDermott is in the process of creating a new strategic plan that will likely be implemented by the end of this year’s first quarter. The new plan comes as the original five-year plan has wrapped up.
McDermott, who accepted the position after performing the duties as interim CEO in 2017, announced he and the board would begin working on the development of a new strategic plan towards the end of last year. He stressed he felt it was important for the permanent CEO to be part of that development because he or she would’ve needed to put their mark on it. Once the unanimous decision was made to hire McDermott as the permanent CEO, plans to move forward on developing a new strategic plan were officially underway.
McDermott did not want to prejudge what the new strategic plan is going to look like in fine detail but did emphasize the outreach and educational programs are going to be a significant part of the plan. One area that McDermott mentioned as being improved over the last year is the promotion of the Center’s resident companies.
“Fostering the relationships with our resident companies has been really important and has created a great feel on campus,” McDermott said. “I certainly don’t take credit for that. That’s a credit to the entire staff and to the resident companies. We’ve got such momentum right now, and while we’re a young organization, we’ve matured a lot. We’re hitting the stride right now, and I think that everybody within this organization, the boards, the staff and hopefully within the community believes that the best is absolutely yet to come.” The Center for the Performing Arts annual events and programs:
Palladium PALS (performing arts literary season) Book Club
Celebrities that Performed at the Center for the Performing Arts
Here is a partial List of National Celebrities that had appeared at the Center for the Performing Arts:
- Brian Wilson
- Dennis Miller
- Graham Nash
- India Arie
- Jane Lynch
- Jason Mraz
- Kip Moore
- Megan Hilty
- Melissa Etheridge
- Rita Moreno
- Storm Large
- Steve Martin
- Straight No Chaser
- Tony Bennett
Carmel Clay Schools
Education has always been a vital part of the Carmel community, and the Carmel Clay Schools (CCS) administration has been mindful to stay ahead of the district’s growth over the decades in order to best serve its student body and faculty. Carmel Clay Schools Co-Interim Superintendents Dr. Amy Dudley and Roger McMichael spoke with us about the growth and changes within the school district over the last 20 years and some issues that the administration and board are preparing for now for future generations of students.
McMichael gave an overview of the construction projects that began with a major renovation of Carmel High School (CHS) beginning in 1994 and concluded with the construction of the last new elementary school, West Clay Elementary, in 2006.
In 1995, the ninth-grade freshman students had been moved from the junior highs (where they had been for years) to the high school, and in 2005, the CHS Freshman Center was completed, adding another 182,000 square feet to the overall high school complex. The Carmel High School building currently sits on 55 acres of land and comprises 22 acres of enclosed space.
“When I was hired in 1994, the high school was literally divided in half,” he said. “The west side was not connected to the east side of the building. There had been a major community uprising over the construction of the high school, and the project had been shut down. That was a big controversy of course. On the west side of the high school, roughly where the cafeteria is, the wall had been bricked up, and there were pipes sticking out, going to nowhere. And from the inside, you could go up a set of stairs and run into a brick wall. As students, you had to go outside to get to the other side of the campus.”
McMichael shared that eventually the committee was reconstituted, new board members were elected, a new plan was approved and construction on the CHS resumed. CHS was under construction for nearly 10 years in some form.
“Part of the reconfiguration was putting the ninth grade in CHS,” McMichael explained. “The ninth grade was in the two junior highs. Prior to the renovations on CHS, the natatorium had not existed. It is worth noting that the state championship swim teams were winning championships long before they had this beautiful natatorium. Prior to, they were swimming in a concrete pond that couldn’t host meets because it wasn’t a regulation pool. Having these facilities doesn’t make the athletes swim faster necessarily. They still have to get up at 4 a.m. and practice every morning.”
Carmel Clay Schools (CCS) built its ninth elementary school, Prairie Trace, in 1998. The district had approximately 7,000-8,000 students and was growing. Two years later, CCS built Towne Meadow Elementary. The district was building a school about every couple of years and renovating existing schools.
In 2004, CCS built its third middle school, Creekside Middle School. The two former junior high schools, Carmel Junior High and Carmel Clay Junior High, had undergone name changes in the mid-‘90s, according to McMichael, and became Carmel Middle and Carmel Clay Middle Schools.
The last new school building, West Clay Elementary, opened in 2006.
“As we approached 2004, our enrollment was growing 300-500 students per year,” McMichael stated. “We built the Freshman Center in 2004, and at that point, we had a high school with 1 million square feet that will accommodate 5,500 students. We are growing into that space, but we are not at capacity. It has taken years to march towards the current 5,000 student enrollment figure.”
According to McMichael, the district completed a 20-year demographic study, which indicates the enrollment that peaked in 2012 at the elementary level would level out and eventually slightly decrease.
“There is a definite anticipation of a declining enrollment at some point,” McMichael affirmed. “The demographic study suggests that by 2026, we’ll be down to approximately 15,200 from 16,000 students.”
Meanwhile, the administrators and school board will continue to focus on providing excellent curriculum and programs as the years move forward.
With the support of the Carmel community, Carmel Clay Schools have managed to pass its last two referenda that have helped to fill the shortfalls created by the current state funding formula. With the passing of these referenda, CCS has been able to maintain the level of education that Carmel residents have grown accustomed to over the decades.
“One of the things that we learned about our first referendum eight years ago was that we needed to do a better job of educating our community,” Dudley observed. “The people that have children in the schools are very supportive. We have great parental support. We weren’t doing a good enough job of educating people who don’t have children in the schools and don’t necessarily have connections to the schools.”
Dudley explained that they started an expedition program to garner support from people who don’t necessarily have ties to the schools. These folks were brought in to discuss the referendum and then went out into the community where they could talk knowledgeably with their friends and neighbors and answer questions.
“Having a high performing school district helps with property values, which allows people to get much more value for their house,” Dudley emphasized. “Businesses want to come to Carmel because their employees want their families to attend our high performing schools. As a district, we have to make sure that we continue to provide opportunities for our students, K-12, and are constantly reinventing ourselves. As good as we are, things change, and we have to grow with those changes. Our students are changing from being just consumers of knowledge to creators of knowledge, and that is where our focus is moving. In the next decades, we have to make sure that our students are adaptable and are being innovative and creative for the jobs that they will have that don’t even exist yet.”
Carmel High School Athletics
that has decades of athletic excellence under its belt:
Carmel High School Choirs
For more than two decades, Carmel High School’s Holiday Spectacular has ushered in the beginning of the holiday season, delighting its audiences with song and dance, fantastic sets and brilliant costumes. Read about Carmel High School’s Holiday Spectacular tradition in Carmel.
Learn what is new in 2019 with Carmel High School (CHS) Choirs
Carmel Events – Live, Work and Play in Carmel, Indiana
The City of Carmel has built many attractions and amenities for residents, employees and visitors to enjoy over the decades. Several local organizations have also developed and grown a variety of annual events and festivals, such as CarmelFest and the Carmel International Arts Festival, over the last 20 years.
Festivals and special events have helped to build community pride and boost tourism throughout the city. In addition to the events, the expansion of the parks and Monon Trail through Carmel are valued amenities to the people who live, work and play in the city. Carmel has more than 500 acres of parkland. Wide open spaces and exceptional amenities make the Carmel Clay Parks and Recreation facilities a destination of their own.
The Monon Greenway inspired development and redevelopment throughout the city. In 1999, a 10-mile segment of the Monon Greenway in Indianapolis was completed, while a 5.2-mile segment in Carmel was opened between 2001-2002.
Additional attractions for residents and visitors to Carmel include the Monon Community Center, a water park and mega-fitness center that opened in Central Park in 2007. The center also has an adjoining building connected by an elevated walkway over the Monon Trail where the Carmel Clay Parks Department offices are located.
Today, Carmel is recognized as a Bronze Level Bicycle Friendly City by the League of American Bicyclists. In addition to the Monon Greenway, many of Carmel’s streets offer bike paths, and the City has worked hard to incorporate trails and paths in many of the new developments. In 2008, the City unveiled the Carmel Access Bikeways, a network of bike routes and loops to be implemented on the city’s existing local streets and multiuse paths. With commuters, recreational riders and families in mind, this system has been designed to identify existing streets and multiuse paths which will best serve to move cyclists around Carmel.
Carmel City Center hosted the first annual Rollfast Gran Fondo, one of the top-rated cycling events in the U.S., in 2015. Rollfast is a bicycle competition for everyone. There are 25-mile, 65-mile and 100-mile options. The event is presented by Rollfast, Inc., a 501(c)(3) charitable organization dedicated to enhancing wellness by promoting bicycling as a means to good mental and physical health and producing events that also create opportunities for the youth of Indiana. Visit rollfastcycling.com for more info.
Carmel City Councilman Bruce Kimball moved to Carmel in the 1990s and has been on the frontlines of developing the city’s bicycle culture and using his position to advocate bicycle safety and awareness. “I’ve seen a dramatic change in the local bike culture,” Kimball observed. “When the farmers market was at City Hall, we’d see 10-15 bikes show up for the market. Today, we see 200-600 bikes show up on a Saturday at Center Green for the market. That metamorphosis didn’t just happen. It happened because we are building a city that is designed for people to walk, to drive and to bike, and we did that by building ‘smart streets’ that are designed for all of the above.”
Carmel Arts & Design District
The Carmel Arts & Design District was designed to promote small businesses and local artisans. The district includes the award-winning Carmel Clay Public Library that opened at its current location in 1999 and a collection of art galleries, boutiques, cafes, spas, restaurants and many other businesses. Lifelike sculptures by John Seward Johnson II, “The Norman Rockwell of American Sculpture”, depict life in the city throughout the streets of the district.
Today, several annual events and festivals are held in the district. Carmel Artomobilia, an annual celebration of automobile ingenuity and craftsmanship, has become the local area’s premier auto display that incorporates the local art galleries and artists into its program. John Leonard, co-founder of Artomobilia, and his team continue to raise the bar each year while putting Carmel, Indiana, on the map for auto enthusiasts from all over the nation. The event is preceeded by Annual Fuelicious event held at the 33-acre Lucas Oil Estate in Carmel.
The district also hosts Art of Wine, Porchfest, Mooncake Festival and several more events throughout the year.
Here are some of the cars you can see a the annual event
Carmel Monthly magazines has been sponsoring this wonderful event for the last five years. Learn more about the history of Artomobilia in Carmel since 2015.
Carmel City Councilman Jeff Worrell, a past chair of CarmelFest and long-time committee member, is also a member of the Rotary Club of Carmel. The club puts on the annual Fourth of July extravaganza in collaboration with the City and its street and safety departments. Worrell has seen the festival go from a local happening to a major regional attraction over the last two decades.
“I knew we had made it in the early 2000s when people said they stopped going to the ‘lake’ and wanted to stay in Carmel for July 4th,” Worrell said. “Over the years, we’ve had to expand our footprint in order to deal with the growing crowds. With the growth, [CarmelFest] continues to feel like a small town, patriotic celebration that has not lost sight of why we all gather on July 4th every year. It is not just a festival; it is a celebration of our country’s heritage.”
Worrell credits the countless dedicated volunteers from within Rotary and several other local service organizations and city employees for their dedication to putting on such a remarkable event.
“The [CarmelFest] footprint is expanding in a positive way,” he said. “We will be using more of our open and public spaces. We will be utilizing Center Green and the newer public spaces that are becoming available. It will create a larger venue and will offer a variety of attractions in addition to the North Zone entertainment, Kids Zone, CarmelFest Parade and other existing attractions that everyone can enjoy at CarmelFest.”
Carmel Clay Public Library
The Carmel Clay Public Library has always been on the cutting edge of technology and known for providing exceptional services and programs to members of all ages of the Carmel community. Now the library has introduced its latest resource that targets young professionals– the CCPL Young Professionals Committee.