What You Need to Know About Carmel, Indiana
Original Publishing date: January 2018. Updated November 2021
The publishers of Carmel Monthly first started chronicling life in Carmel, Indiana in October 2013. Through the years we have had a remarkable seat to the dramatic changes that have occurred to one of the country’s most dynamic cities. Carmel has become a textbook for the evolution of a small rural midwestern city to one that annually is recognized repeatedly on national lists that recognize the cities that are the most livable, safest and best places to raise a family. In early 2021, Carmel was named one of the “Tree Cities of the World” by the Arbor Day Foundation. Each month we publish feature stories about the remarkable people and events that make Carmel such a wonderful place to live and work.
History of Carmel’s Redevelopment
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 recognized as a model of modern urban planning around the world.
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 major 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 and the construction of the Monon Greenway was 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. Also, 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 Indiana University 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, located on Rangeline Road south of Main Street, opened in 2010 and is home to businesses such as Blue Moon Café, Holder Mattress Company and several home design and furnishings companies.
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 (Carmel city police) 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 about what he saw as key moments in the development, Brainard responded, “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.”
A major part of the redevelopment of Carmel has included the construction of numerous traffic roundabouts. If fact Carmel has become known around the world as the “Capital of Roundabouts”.
According to the city of Carmel, since the late 1990’s Carmel has been building and replacing signalized intersections with roundabouts. Carmel now has more than 125 roundabouts, more than any other city in the United States.
Roundabouts move traffic more efficiently and reduce the number of fatalities and serious-injury accidents. They work because of their safety record, their compatibility with the environment, their aesthetics and their ability to make it easier for pedestrians and bicyclists to navigate.
The number of injury accidents in Carmel have reduced by about 80 percent and the number of accidents overall by about 40 percent. Our numbers are similar to those reported by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
In order to enhance the safety and aesthetics of the roundabouts, Carmel has with many of its roundabouts added an art installation in the center of the roundabout. Of particular note, is a recent art installation by Arlon Bayliss in the roundabout at City Center Drive and Third Avenue SW near the Palladium. Bayliss’ latest sculpture, “Homage to Hoagy,” is an interactive sculpture that pays tribute to the late Oscar-winning composer, pianist and singer Hoagy Carmichael. This is not his first for Carmel, Bayliss’ other sculptures, “Beacon Bloom” in the roundabout at Westfield Boulevard and 96th Street and “Grace, Love and Joy” in the roundabout at North Pennsylvania Street and Old Meridian Street. See a video interview with artist Arlon Bayless click here.
What Brainard Sees in the Future
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.”
Major Construction Projects Announced In 2021
In September 2021 the City of Carmel and Republic Airways announced plans to construct a new aviation campus for Republic and relocate its regional headquarters and crew training facility to Carmel—specifically, along the Meridian (U.S. 31) Corporate Corridor.
We met with Carmel resident Matt Koscal, Republic Airways chief administrative officer, who graciously shared details of the project and his thoughts on the status of the aviation industry with us for our cover story.
According to Koscal, the Republic campus will include a high-tech training facility for its pilots, flight crews, technicians and other employees of the airline. Currently, Republic is operating its Leadership In Flight Training (LIFT) Academy—a commercial aviation pilot and maintenance technician training school—near the Indianapolis International Airport. Republic will relocate its training academy to its Carmel campus, where it will showcase its state-of-the-art technologies that combine flight, flight simulator, online and in-classroom training. Additionally, this campus will consolidate its out-of-state training facilities into Carmel, Indiana.
The 105,000-square-foot training facility will be three stories tall and visible to travelers on nearby U.S. 31, providing passersby with a unique view of pilot-training simulators through large bay windows that will face the highway. Within the development, an “eagles nest” viewing deck will allow visitors, school students and other aviation partners a unique view of the excitement of aviation.
The training facility will include 20 classrooms, 94 workstations, two cabin trainers and eight flight simulators. After the corporate headquarters is constructed, four more classrooms will be added along with two more flight simulators. The hotel adjacent to the training center will be expanded to 274 rooms and used exclusively as accommodations for trainees, visiting instructors, business partners and colleagues traveling to the aviation campus.
In 2021, the Carmel City Council’s finance committee voted in favor of a $38 million lease bond to cover the cost of expanding the Carmel Police Department [CPD] headquarters. According to Mayor Brainard, the original CPD headquarters at Civic Square was planned in the late 1980s and lacks the necessary space and security that is needed today. “It [CPD headquarters] was built for a city of 45,000 to 50,000, and we’re over 100,000,” Brainard stated. “There are two components to [this project]. First, it will [permanently] move the city court out of city hall. City Hall doesn’t have the security that we need today for a courtroom. With the [CPD] expansion, we can move the city court there, and we are building it to Superior Court standards so it can move up from being a city court at some point in the future. We’re building it with jury rooms and a sally port.” The other important component to the project is the additional training and workspaces that will be provided to CPD and its staff. Since 1996, CPD has maintained the honor of being an internationally accredited law enforcement agency and was the first in Hamilton County to be so.
The historic Monon Depot—built in 1883 by the Monon Railroad—once served as a passenger station and freight depot. Today, it houses the Carmel Clay Historical Society (CCHS) and serves as a museum of local history. CCHS was formed in 1975 by a group of dedicated local residents who understood the importance of preserving the history of Carmel and Clay Township.
According to Dan McFeely, CCHS board president and a City of Carmel spokesperson CCHS has been looking at replacing the archive building for more than 10 years. The current archive building is the little house that is located right next to the Depot.
“It’s not been in good shape, and over the last couple of years, we’ve moved everything out into temporary storage,” McFeely shared. “With the expansion of the Monon Trail, we got our heads together and decided that the best thing to do would be build a museum with display areas for exhibits, spaces for our archives and spaces to accommodate small groups, including a rooftop garden.”
In addition to those aforementioned amenities, McFeely added that CCHS is planning on having an area on the first floor where they can host events and major announcements, and a possible coffee shop and gift shop as well. Public restrooms will be available and an information booth—all easily accessible—for those passing through the city or for those stopping in off the Monon Trail.
“We think the building will be three stories, and we are going to develop a rooftop garden that we can use for our events but also make available for community groups or that the public can rent out for private receptions and things like that,” McFeely said. “That would become revenue that CCHS would need to help run the building. In terms of our educational programming, we’ve always been involved with education, and it runs the gamut of all age groups. But, specifically for our elementary grade school kids, when they study Indiana history, part of their curriculum is to pay a visit to the Monon Depot, and one of our volunteers walks them around downtown and talks with them about the history of the community.”
In addition to celebrating the extraordinary dynasty of the Carmel High School girls’ swim team and its incredible 35th IHSAA Swimming and Diving Championship it clenched earlier this month, the Carmel Swim Club (CSC) has the impending groundbreaking of a new facility, the Carmel Swim Academy, to look forward to this coming April. The Carmel High School girls’ swim team is a nationally recognized team, not to slight the boys’ team, which is also recognized for its remarkable successes. So, while the Carmel Swim Academy is not being built for the sole purpose of supporting these outstanding teams, CSC is looking forward to the teams training and competing at the new facility in the near future.
CSC Director of Business Development Maggie Mestrich shared that the club was established in 1973. Its mission, “teaching excellence through swimming, for life,” will be expanded upon with the completion of the new facility, located adjacent to the existing Carmel Total Fitness gym in Carmel.
CSC currently provides swim lessons to more than 3,000 children annually–– renting space across the city to accommodate the growing program. The Carmel Swim Academy is designed to provide a doorway to water safety that introduces whole families to lifelong self-improvement, wellness and success.
Carmel Swim Academy will feature a 25-yard, six-lane training pool with zero-entry instructional space and a comfortable pool deck for dryland activities. Carmel Swim Academy will boast warm water and offer a mezzanine to optimize viewing of swim lessons, as well as family-friendly locker room.
In October 2021, Carmel-based developer Lauth Group, Inc. began site work on the 1ST ON MAIN mixed-use development project. Located on the former PNC Bank branch/Lot One site at Main Street and Range Line Road, the project features:
310-space parking garage with public access
Four-story, 73,000 SF Class-A office building with first floor restaurant space and a private rooftop terrace
8 luxury condominiums ranging in size from 3.000 SF to 3,340 SF
35 luxury apartment units
A community gathering plaza featuring the City’s Rotary Clock
Michael Garvey, Lauth’s Chief Investment Officer and Partner, who leads Lauth’s project development team. “The community gathering plaza will be home to the historic Rotary Clock and will create an inviting destination space. Plans also call for a restaurant with outdoor seating overlooking the plaza. Each building within the development incorporates outdoor activation features including planters, benches, outdoor furniture, patios, festive lighting, and balconies. We envision this being a hub of activity for the residents of Carmel and the many visitors who take part in the variety of events hosted each year.”
Hotel Carmichael Opens In 2020
Originally scheduled to open in the spring of 2020, but actually opening in August 2020, the Hotel Carmichael in downtown Carmel has been described as an architectural masterpiece designed to inspire a journey through history with all the modern-day amenities a traveler desires. Inspired in part by the work of 18th-century architect Robert Adam, the hotel’s design serves as a transition from the Palladium across the Monon Trail to the west and the rest of the adjacent City Center development.
Hotel Carmichael, a Marriott Autograph Collection is a 122-room hotel located at One Carmichael Square and is owned by CCC Boutique Hotel, LLC and managed by Coury Hospitality of Kansas City, Missouri.
The Hotel Carmichael delivers a distinguished hospitality experience perfect for the discerning traveler. The downtown Carmel hotel is blooming as a point of cultural and creative discovery in the heart of the center of Carmel and along the Monon Trail. This greater Indianapolis hotel offers modern accommodations located next to the Palladium, one of the greatest music halls of its time.
The Hotel Carmichael contains an abundance of meeting space, including the Paul Dresser Meeting Room, James Hanley Boardroom and the Noble Sissle Boardroom.
The opulent Cole Porter Grand Ballroom is an ideal and picturesque space for banquets and weddings. Surrounded by expansive windows, guests of the ballroom will enjoy extravagant views of the Palladium and surrounding amenities.
Guests and visitors can enjoy delectable light fare menu items and/or craft cocktails created by expert mixologists as the wood fireplace crackles in the background at Adagio (slow tempo)—the lobby lounge. Also featured in Adagio is a state-of-the-art Steinway and Son’s grand piano that can record a musician’s performance to be played back and enjoyed for decades to come.
The incomparable views throughout the hotel, both in its interior and exterior, are positively spellbinding. And the attention to detail are impressive to even the most seasoned traveler. The handcrafted, wrought-iron railing, made in Anderson, Indiana, that leads guests along the elegant grand staircase, and every inspired light fixture, window treatment, piece of elaborate furniture, accessory, on down to the signage throughout the hotel, is congruent to the overall theme. It’s a masterful blend of architectural design from a classical era with modern amenities and technology. Beautifully appointed—yet comfortable—spaces throughout the hotel pay homage to the Great American Songbook and music, as does the original artwork that is on display throughout the hotel.
Very shortly after opening, the Hotel Carmichael, along with the City of Carmel, and the Center for the Performing Arts, was scheduled to host the prestigious International Making Cities Livable Conference June 2-6, 2021. IMCL is an international gathering of global experts sharing the best evidence-based lessons of great cities and towns to improve the quality of life for all. Among those expected: Many of the world’s most innovative and successful mayors, planners, economic development specialists, designers, developers, NGO officials, researchers and scholars. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the conference and the opening of the hotel was postponed.
In the words of the IMCL’s director, “Mayor James Brainard’s achievements are remarkable, including a Historic Arts Center, a new downtown, a magnificent performing arts center, new mixed-use buildings and new neighborhoods, all interconnected with bike lanes and traffic-calmed streets. You will be amazed by what can be done by a mayor with vision and a city that rejoices in replacing sprawl with functional, livable neighborhoods.”
Though the ongoing pandemic negatively impacted the timeline for the highly anticipated shows and select entertainment, guests are now able to enjoy a cabaret show at Feinstein’s at Hotel Carmichael—a partnership with two-time Emmy and five-time Grammy award-winning musician Michael Feinstein. Feinstein’s at Hotel Carmichael is modeled after the legendary Feinstein’s/54 Below in New York. With its launch in early 2021, Feinstein’s has already played host to outstanding performers like Franc D’Ambrosio (longest running Phantom in Broadway history), Billy Stritch and Lillias White and continues to bring outstanding world-class performers to Carmel where they can be enjoyed in a cozy comfortable atmosphere.
Founded by Carmel native and CEO Joel Kirk, Discovering Broadway Inc. hosts Broadway creative teams in Indiana so they can develop their Broadway-bound new musicals and offer the public educational opportunities to learn about the process of making a musical. The organization programs seminars to the public and master classes for aspiring performers.
Kirk is a New York City theater director and producer who specializes in the development of new plays and musicals. He has worked with New World Stages, Playwrights Horizons, NYMF, The Lark, New Dramatists, Sheen Center, Hudson Guild Theatre, Wide Eyed Productions and WorkShop Theatre, to name a few.
In May 2021, Carmel Monthly was pleased to feature some of Broadway’s brightest stars—Christy Altomare, Corey Cott, Marcy Heisler, Zina Goldrich, Kate Wetherhead and Marlo Hunter—on our cover! This team of extraordinary talent came to Carmel, Indiana, for a writers retreat program hosted by Discovering Broadway to work on creating five new songs from the new musical “Ever After.” It was the second show to participate in Discovering Broadway’s program, following the February workshop of “The Devil Wears Prada” musical.
“Ever After” showcases two of Broadway’s most charismatic stars, Christy Altomare—who starred in “Anastasia”—and Corey Cott, who is best known for playing Jack Kelly in the Broadway musical “Newsies” and originating the role of Donny Novitski in the Broadway musical “Bandstand.”
Vivante French Eatery: Inside Hotel Carmichael
Whatever misconceptions you may have about French cuisine can be tossed out the la fenêtre. And once you have indulged in the vibrant culinary experience at Hotel Carmichael’s French-inspired signature restaurant—Vivante French Eatery—you will have a brand-new appreciation for French fare and Vivante’s creative culinary offerings.
Patrons of Vivante will enjoy the exquisite yet comfortable interior decor as well as the exterior views of Carter’s Green and the Monon Trail from a comfortable seat or one of the brushed velvet booths. Seasonal outdoor seating is also available. Vivante’s menu offers a “contemporary twist on the classics” and serves fresh and approachable plates for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Vivante, meaning “alive,” will serve fresh and approachable French fare prepared and presented by its executive chef, Joseph Hsu, originally from Taiwan.
Hsu brings 25 years of experience and a passion for cooking that has led him to cook all over the United States. After graduating from Penn State University, Hsu worked in cities and areas such as New York City, Florida and Colorado. He spent nine years with Landry’s Restaurants, first as an executive chef and then as a regional chef supporting acquisitions and openings. Hsu moved to Indiana in 2013, working as the executive chef for the Indianapolis Zoo. He started his own business with 5280 Bistro Hospitality in 2017.
In addition to being passionate about food and his patrons’ experiences, he is also passionate about supporting local vendors and purveyors as well as supporting his community as a whole.
Additional and thoughtful extras, like refreshing palate cleansers, truffles and rich French press coffee, are just a few ways that the incomparable staff at Vivante strive to create a lasting impression on its guests. Vivante is open to both the public and hotel guests.
At the corner of Rangeline Road and Carmel Drive is a new development called the Proscenium. It is a mixed-use development which should be completed in late 2020 or early 2021. Three central Indiana companies announced in 2019 that they would relocate their corporate headquarters to the Agora at the Proscenium, located at 10 West Carmel Drive in Carmel, Indiana. The 4-story, 100,000 sf office building is completed. The office was developed by Lauth Group, Inc. and is a part of Novo Development Group’s mixed-use Proscenium development located in the heart of Carmel.
Proscenium’s residential component will offer the option to lease or buy within the development and is already an area of high interest as reservations are being placed for both the condominiums and apartments that are under construction. REV at Proscenium is a one of a kind, 26-unit condominium community opening in fall of 2020. This all-encompassing luxury development combines the ease of upscale living with the convenience of retail shops and dining all within mere steps of your front door. The design package includes: several floor plans, state-of-the-art gourmet kitchens, private garage, fitness center, secured bike storage, resort-style swimming pool with fire pit, walkability to on-site retail shops and dining that are slated to come in and so much more.
Proscenium residents and tenants, along with area locals, are eagerly anticipating the grand opening of 101 Beer Kitchen and currently enjoying the recent opening of Indiana’s first Wahlburgers.
The proprietors of 101 Beer Kitchen, Thad and Jess Kittrell, opened their very first 101 Beer Kitchen in Dublin, Ohio, in 2012. Chef Thad Kittrell and his culinary team feature a menu that specializes in rustic offerings made with fresh, local ingredients that are paired with craft beer selections.
Founded in 2011 by the famous actor/singer brothers Mark and Donnie Wahlberg and their chef brother Paul, Wahlburgers has over 20 locations throughout the U.S. The original Wahlburgers opened in Boston, Massachusetts, and is the focus of an A&E TV series.
Learn what redevelopment initiatives help to attract Millennials in this story.
The Evolution of Carmel Chamber of Commerce Becomes OneZone
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 – President of 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.
In October 2019, the City of Carmel publicly recognized long time council member Ron Carter, a dedicated resident, city councilor and volunteer of more than two decades, by renaming the green space formerly known as Center Green— between the Palladium and the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre—to Carter’s Green. A surprise ceremony took place during the Carmel Farmers Market on September 21, 2019, and left its founder, Carter, speechless and overwhelmed.
Each November, since 2017, Carter Green, located between the Palladium and The Tarkington/The Studio Theater , has been transformed into 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 was the addition of a Kulturecke—a German history museum. It is 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.
An extensive poll by USA Today’s 10 BEST travel media group named Carmel Christkindlmarkt the No. 1 winner in the 2019 USA TODAY 10 Best Readers’ Choice travel award contest for Best Holiday Market in North America. Now in its third year of operation, the Carmel Christkindlmarkt has garnered national awareness as one of the most authentic German-themed market in America.
In 2021 the City Center Area Finally Became The Center of Carmel’s Holiday Activities That Officials Envisioned
With the return of the Carmel Christkindlmarkt, the expansive list of performers coming to the Center for the Performing Arts and Feinstein’s at Hotel Carmichael, the hotel itself, and the restaurants and businesses located at Carmel City Center, all create the synergy that the City of Carmel’s administration had envisioned long before the ice rink and renowned holiday market debuted at Carter Green.
After cancelling 2020’s Christkindlmarkt due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the market will be back beginning on Nov. 20 and running through Dec. 24. More than 40 vendors will sell a variety of German food and drink, handmade gifts, artisan crafts and more at the 2021 Carmel Christkindlmarkt.
The Center for the Performing Arts CEO/President Jeff McDermott shared his thoughts on the holiday synergy that is being created literally in the Center’s front lawn.
“I think what’s happening here is exactly what our city leadership envisioned would happen,” McDermott stated. “They [city leadership] wanted the Center and this campus to really be a central hub and meeting place where people can celebrate all that is great about this community.”
Hotel Carmichael’s General Manager Jamie Hopwood is excited for a holiday season for the hotel and its guests—especially since the Christkindlmarkt was closed due to the pandemic during the hotel’s inaugural holiday season.
“From a winter wonderland viewpoint, I think the hotel and Christkindlmarkt experience is a perfect place for a weekday getaway–not just a weekend getaway,” Hopwood stated. “I think midweek will be a really good time for families to have people come and visit where it might not be as busy as the weekends and people will be able to enjoy all that Carmel has to offer during the week.”
Feinstein’s at Hotel Carmichael’s Cabaret and Events Operations Manager Kelley Nichols added, “We are excited for the demographics that will be coming to the Christkindlmarkt this year and by the number of people that it will bring. We are planning on doing more shows during the week—specifically, the second and third weeks in December—to grab those customers. We’re very excited for that!”
If you haven’t experienced the holidays at The Cake Bake Shop at City Center in Carmel, you haven’t truly experienced the splendor of the holidays. In addition to her renowned cakes and delectable dishes, restaurateur Gwendolyn Rogers’ holiday decor is iconic in and of itself. From animated polar bears to exquisite Christmas trees and swags that don the interior of the restaurant, to the splendorous exterior decor—Rogers’ and her staff add a special ingredient to the mix that is the epicenter of holidays in Carmel.
Carmel Farmers Market
Every Saturday during the summer months from May to September, the Carter Green, which is just off the Monon Trail, 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 four 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
- Mission Coffee
- Bison World
- Eagle Creek Apiary
- Blue Yonder Organic Farm
- Generations Pie
- Lawler Farms
- Longtime 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
Just off the Monon Trail and surrounding Carter Green, you will find The Palladium, The Tarkington Theater and The Studio Theater, which 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.
The development of The Center for the Performing Arts and Carter 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.
The crown jewel of Carmel’s Center for the Performing Arts Center is the Palladium’s Concert Hall.
According to the Center for the Performing Art’s, “the Palladium’s 1,600-seat Concert Hall – essentially a building within a building – is a traditional “single room” design in which the audience and performers occupy the same space. Seating is available on the Orchestra, Payne & Mencias Box Tier, Mezzanine and Gallery levels. Every feature in the Concert Hall has been selected for optimal acoustic effect. A canopy of glass panels suspended over the stage can be raised or lowered to accommodate the volume level of each performance. A system of retractable curtains controls sound reflection from the hand-plastered walls. Every entrance to the hall is a double-door sound and light lock with thick concrete walls and acoustic padding. The oculus, a round window at the peak of the dome, admits natural light but contains multiple layers of glass to block external noise”.
Resident Companies of The Center for Performing Arts
Resident companies of the Center include the Actors Theatre of Indiana (ATI), Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre, Carmel Symphony Orchestra, Central Indiana Dance Ensemble, Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre and Indiana Wind Symphony.
Actors Theatre of Indiana
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 it’s home. Learn more about one of ATI’s co-founders Don Farrell and other actors.
In 2019, Carmel’s own Actors Theatre of Indiana (ATI) announced it had been awarded four major awards by BroadwayWorld, including the honor of “Theater of the Year.” BroadwayWorld.com is the premier website for Broadway, theatre and live entertainment around the world. The BroadwayWorld Indianapolis Awards nominees included regional productions, touring shows and additional productions, which opened between October 1, 2017, and September 30, 2018.
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
Carmel Symphony Orchestra
Believing that music has the power to change lives, the Carmel Symphony Orchestra (CSO) is the 85-member Resident Orchestra at The Palladium at The Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel, IN. Founded in 1975, the CSO is comprised of professional and passionate musicians.
The orchestra performs concerts featuring an Janna Hymeseclectic repertoire of some of the world’s greatest symphonic music. The CSO is committed to enhancing our community’s quality of life through creative, artistically excellent performances, and educational experiences for diverse audiences of all ages.
Janna Hymes became the organization’s music director in July, 2017. The Carmel Symphony Orchestra (CSO) held a nationwide search for the position. Hymes was selected as one of the three finalists from more than 130 applicants by the CSO Music Director Search Committee, comprised of four CSO musicians, four board members and three community stakeholders.
Hymes, a resident of Maine, has served as the music director for the Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra of Virginia since 2004 and
founded the Maine Pro Musica Orchestra in 2008. Hymes is no stranger to Indiana’s arts scene. She was the associate conductor of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra early in her career.
Hymes was raised in New York City and exposed to the arts throughout her upbringing by a supportive family that nurtured her enthusiasm for studying music. She found inspiration by playing the cello in high school and by attending the ballet, opera and symphony. Later in college, Hymes studied under such prominent conductors as Leonard Bernstein and Gunther Schuller.
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.”
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.
The Great American Songbook Foundation (GASF) welcomed an international conference to the Palladium: “Reading Musicals: Sources, Editions, Performance – A Conference in honor of Geoffrey Block.” The conference ran from May 9-11, 2018 and was organized by Dr. Dominic McHugh, a senior lecturer in musicology and director of performance in the Department of Music at the University of Sheffield. McHugh made national and international news with his discovery of some of the lost songs from Meredith Willson’s “The Music Man” while he was conducting research at the GASF in Carmel.
Some of the lost songs were found in a box containing Willson’s collection, and one particular piece of sheet music was literally hidden in the middle of a published book within that box. The lost songs had been cut away from the show before it reached Broadway. McHugh took copies of the songs back to the U.K. where they were performed in a world premiere concert in February 2018.
McHugh, an expert on the history of Broadway musicals, has published several high-profile publications on musicals. His work has appeared in the Journal of the American Musicological Society and has contributed chapters to The Oxford Handbook of Musical Theatre Adaptations, to name just a few. He is also a member of the Advisory Board of Oxford University Press’ Broadway Legacies series.
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:
In addition to its legacy of offfering outstanding live performances, The Center for the Performing Arts also offers to the community a menu of educational programing to the local schools and also adults.
The Center for the Performing Arts included in their portfolio of programs an Intro to Stand-Up Comedy class. Carmel Monthly interviewed a few willing participants on what motivated them to try their hands at comedy.
Instructing the class is professional comedian Mat Alano-Martin, who comes to comedy from the world of rock and roll. With a comedic style that bridges the social and political views of his indie-rock background with the attitude and sensibilities of his rural and blue collar youth, Alano-Martin has appeared at comedy clubs, theaters, punk rock dives, redneck roadhouses, casinos, colleges, living rooms and everywhere in between.
Alano-Martin has taught this class in Bloomington and finds the chance to teach it at the Center for the Performing Arts an exciting opportunity. “This class as originally designed as part of the partnership between Limestone Comedy Festival, of which I am the co-director, and Ivy Tech Bloomington,” he said. “Julia Shildmyer-Heighway reached out to me about bringing the course to the Center as part of their community arts programming. As far as the importance of the class, I think it serves as a safe place for people who might be looking at doing stand-up as a bucket list item or for those who just want to try it. The classroom setting gives them the opportunity to write and perform stand-up in a supportive environment.”
The Center’s Community Engagement Manager, Julia Shildmyer- Heighway, has been building its catalog of educational and outreach program since she arrived in 2015. She has developed programs such as the Palladium PALS (performing arts literary season) Book Club that encourages students to read books aligned with Center Presents performances and earns them a free ticket to a show. The Palladium Bookies, a group that meets every other month, is dedicated to books about performing arts. These programs are only two examples of the Center’s literacy initiatives that span babies to seniors.
The Center’s Firestone FrontRow gives high school and college students with special interest in the genre the unique access to Center Presents performers. Students sit in on the sound check and rehearsal and then engage in Q & A with the performers followed by dinner and tickets to the performance.
“Wynonna Judd was so great,” Shildmyer-Heighway exclaimed. “She was changing the songs and instruments up; it was a true rehearsal. Afterwards, she got the kids up on stage with her and talking with her. She really went into the details of her life and gave them meaningful advice. These experiences are always so wonderful.”
The Preshow Experiences are one way that the Center connects with and promotes the talented youth from our own Indiana communities. The Master Classes & Residencies further study the art that they learn directly from world-class Center Presents performers in a classroom/studio setting.
The Koresh Dance company instructed a hip-hop class with some IPS students. Later that night, they drove with Shildmyer-Heighway to Frankfurt, Indiana, and did a master class with a dance company, The TAP Academy, whose students represent all four school districts in Clinton County. “This is just an amazing opportunity for our students,” said Tap Academy owner Lynne Brinkley. “This is an international company, and their choreography is cutting edge. This is not something I could even dream of doing without our partners at the Center for the Performing Arts.” Brinkley’s students – about 18 young ladies ages 8 to 16 – later came to Carmel to catch the company’s Friday night performance at the Tarkington theater, which also included a post- performance Q&A.
For more information on any of these programs and for a complete list of available programs, email Outreach@TheCenterPresents.org.
Celebrities Whose Exclusive Interviews Have Appeared In Carmel Monthly
Here is a partial list of National Celebrities that had appeared at the Center for the Performing Arts or Feinstein’s at Hotel Carmichael and with whom Carmel Monthly has had the privilege to do an exclusive interview. Click on the name to be taken to the interview:
- 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
- Chris Botti
- Ben Vereen
- Dave Koz
- Michael Feinstein
- Martin Short
- Melissa Manchester
- Corey Cott
- Christy Altamare
- Franc D’Ambrosio
- Ben Folds
- Clint Black
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 Education Foundation (CEF)
The Carmel School system enjoys the support of the CEF, one of the oldest foundations of its kind. It was established in 1966 and has awarded over $2,000,000 in college scholarships to Carmel High School (CHS) seniors and over $525,000 in education grants to increase student achievement for all 16,000 Carmel Clay School (CCS) students. The CEF Board of Directors funds education grants to teachers and awards more than 100 college scholarships every school year.
CEF also contributes to the strengthening of community ties between the school district and the community at large by hosting a number of events throughout the year that are supported by individuals, families and businesses in Carmel. The annual Ghosts and Goblins 5K/2K is a popular tradition that fundraises for CEF in addition to its annual Showcase and Telethon events. Carmel Monthly has been an active sponsor and partner of CEF.
In January 2020, the torch was officially passed to a new executive director at Carmel Education Foundation . Retired co-executive directors Barbara Danquist and Stephanie McDonald led CEF for seven years, strengthening the organization—internally and externally—increasing awareness of not only its purpose but the impact that CEF has on the Carmel community as a whole. The CEF Board of Directors named Jennifer Penix as the new executive director in October 2019, and Penix became active in her role on January 2 of 2020.
Carmel Youth Assistance Program
Carmel Youth Assistance Program (CYAP) was formed in Fall 2015 to help strengthen youth and families through community involvement. CYAP works in collaboration with the Carmel Clay School District, city of Carmel, and the Hamilton County Superior Court. CYAP is a franchise of a great concept that was started in Hamilton County. The Early Intervention Advocates in each community work under the appointment of Hamilton County Circuit and Superior Court judges. Initially established under Judge Paul Felix, Hamilton County Circuit Court, and Judge Steven Nation, Hamilton County Superior Court, now retired.
“The Youth Assistance Program provides tutoring, mentoring, and coordination of services from businesses, schools, government, and faith-based organizations, in addition to citizens in the community who want to lend their time and talents,” Judge Steven Nation explained. “These volunteers will provide to children the assistance, guidance, and support needed to help keep young people in school and build successful lives, regardless of any obstacles or issues they may be facing.”
In 2017, the city of Carmel and several of its partners created an event, the Carmel Gala, as a means to raise funds to support the efforts of CYAP. Carmel Monthly has proudly been the media sponsor each year for this event since its inception. See, 2018, 2019. Unfortunately, the gala had to be canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic.
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.
Carmel Dad’s Club
The Carmel community exudes a tradition of excellence in many categories including youth sports, and many of the early chapters for the community’s exceptional youth athletes begin at the Carmel Dads’ Club (CDC). More than six decades ago, a small group of Carmel fathers conceived a youth sports program that provided early skill development for youth athletes. The first sport offered by the club was football. Today, CDC is a not-for-profit organization that offers 12 sports per year. CDC also provides special programs for emotionally and physically impaired children. And while skill development remains an important component for the club, it also provides an alternative for kids who may never start in high school sports or go pro. CDC isn’t just coaching skills on the field or on the courts, they are coaching life skills that the kids will take with them throughout their lives. With over 5500 memberships, the Dads’ Club is now an integral part of the Carmel community, representing parent volunteers, the school systems, and the city. For a fuller history of the CDC go to: https://www.carmeldadsclub.org/Default.aspx?tabid=1025968
CDC’s new fieldhouse is now under construction, and the club anticipates its grand opening to be in November 2021. The cost of the project is approximately $11 million and is funded through the Clay Township Impact Program. The fieldhouse is located on the club’s property at Mark Badger Memorial Park. It will feature four basketball courts and a full-sized synthetic field lined for both football, soccer and lacrosse. There will be a track encircling the field, and the fieldhouse will also include three batting cages for baseball and softball.
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.”
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.
Artomobilia for 2021 announced in June 2021 that it, along with local Lotus dealer GatorMotorsports, had been granted the esteemed privilege to exhibit a one-of-a-kind car, the Lotus Evija. The Evija is a $2.5 million supercar EV with approximately 2000 horsepower. Artomobilia joins the ranks of only three other events, Pebble Beach, Amelia Island. the Lotus Owners Meeting, presently scheduled for the car will be available for viewing by the general public. Carmel Monthly was thrilled to cover the Evija announcement as the media sponsor the past six years.
Here are some of the cars that have been exhibited at the annual event
1967 Chevy Camaro RS Originally owned by Legendary Pete Estes
Carmel Monthly magazines has been the media sponsor for this wonderful event for the last five years. Learn more about the history of Artomobilia in Carmel since 2015.
Artomobilia 2020 (cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic)
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.
In January 2020 the Joyce Winner West Branch was opened in the Village of WestClay. The 5,000-square-foot branch was named in honor of the late Joyce Winner—wife of Carmel resident Jim Winner—who passed away last year. Winner was a beloved friend to many, an avid reader, a passionate advocate for early literacy and a longtime CCPL Foundation Guild member.
Notables Whose Interviews Appeared in Carmel Monthly
- Allison Melangton (Emmy Award winner & Sr, VP Penske Entertainment)
- Bobby “Slick” Leonard (Indiana Legend and Basketball Hall Of Fame)
- Frederick Stahly (Emmy Award winner for sound engineering for Star Wars)
- Gary Brackett (former Indianapolis Colt)
- Eddie Gill (former Indiana Pacer and current sports personality)
- Jonathan Byrd (Indy Car Owner)
- Matthew Shumway (Academy Award nominee)
- Mel Simon and Bren Simon (Founder of Simon Malls)
- Mark Boyle (Pacers radio)
- Chris Denari (Pacers TV play by play
- Rick Fuson (President of Pacers)
- Scot Pollard (former NBA player)
- Scot Pollard and Dawn Pollard
- Scott Jones (inventor of voice mail)
- Seema Verma (former Administrator for the Center of Medicare and Medicaid)
- Stacia Matthews (former TV personality)
- Susan Brooks (former Congresswoman)
- Ted Allen (TV personality; host of Bravo’s Chopped))
- Rajeev Ram (three-time Grand Slam Tennis Champ)
- Josh McRoberts (former NBA player)
- Jon Busch (former MLS goalie)
- Bill Benner (USBWA Hall Of Fame)
- Scott Goodyear (former Indy 500 driver)
- Derek Daly (former professional race driver)
- Dave Jamerson (former NBA player)
- Dennis Murphy (CEO IU Health)
- Jonathan Nalli (Sr. VP Ascension Health, CEO St. Vincent -Indiana)
- Pippa Mann (Indy Car Driver)
- Robert Garrigus (PGA Tour Pro)
- Kalen Jackson (Indianapolis Colts Vice Chairman & Owner)
- Jay Howard (former IndyCar driver)
- Chef Paul Wahlburger (Chef for Wahlburger’s Restaurants and brother of actors Mark and Donnie)
- Angelo Pizzo (Screenwriter for “Hoosiers”, “Rudy” and “My All-American”)
- Justin Escue (Writer and director)