Column: Placemaking brings us together


Commentary by Mayor Jim Brainard

The recent opening of Midtown Plaza and the anticipated completion of the expanded Monon Greenway this summer are getting many positive reviews from what I’ve seen and heard as I visit the area. It has also already received national recognition for its design by the Congress for New Urbanism for our efforts to revitalize an area that was once home to abandoned industrial sites.

In announcing Carmel’s Charter Award, the CNU wrote that we were not only advancing the principles they hold dear to their mission of new urbanism, but that such projects “make a difference in people’s lives.”

But this is nothing new. Our strategy in Midtown, including the creation of the public square we call Midtown Plaza and expanding and enhancing the Monon Greenway, calls to mind the goals we have had for more than 20 years in Carmel.

We have focused our efforts on creating public spaces, welcoming places for people from all walks of life to gather and meet their neighbors. Renowned urban planners agree that great cities around the world pay attention to the public realm, creating remarkable places that are open to all, fill a variety of needs, attracting people from far and near, welcoming pedestrians in a safe area and nurturing a civil society.

In our new Midtown, it might involve meeting for dinner and then spending time playing games or just sitting and chatting on a cool summer’s night. Our city parks offer similar opportunities, but Midtown Plaza is uniquely situated in our more densely populated central core, surrounded by commercial retail, restaurants and residential units. Because of this placement, it remains open much later in the evening in a safe, well-lit, bustling area.

We have worked hard to support our locally owned restaurants and businesses. One of our goals with Midtown is to create a vibrant and bustling corridor that is filled with office workers during the day and apartment residents in the evening, to mix in with the tourists and visitors who are there at all hours of the day – spending money at our restaurants and shops, whose owners have invested in our city.

We also have worked hard to bring a new vision to once-abandoned and under-used areas like Midtown, which not only increases the value of the area, but also reverses the trend to encourage suburban sprawl away from the central corridor of our city, where a city’s infrastructure already exists. We have proudly entered into partnerships with private developers to redevelop Midtown and other areas like the Arts & Design District and City Center into vibrant and sustainable areas.

Aside from all of that, let’s not forget that the new Midtown Plaza is basically a new city park, a place for people from across the city to come together and enjoy the community they call home. It is nestled in the heart of a growing area with beautiful architecture, public art and a busy Monon Greenway.

In a world where social media polarizes us in opposite directions, we look at Midtown as one step toward reversing that trend by bringing people back together with a common goal of simply enjoying their community and fellowship with their neighbors.

Jim Brainard is mayor of the City of Carmel.