Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard is asking the city council for $25 million in bonds to primarily fund land acquisition for redevelopment projects, but some councilors said they’d like to have more details and oversight before casting a vote.
The proposal includes $13.4 million to acquire 26 parcels ranging in price from $16,000 to $3.7 million. City councilors received a list of addresses the Carmel Redevelopment Commission is eyeing, but the city declined to release the list publicly because of how it could impact purchase negotiations.
At a Feb. 4 meeting of the city council’s finance committee, Brainard said the sites are in or near the Arts & Design District, Midtown, City Center and Home Place, areas the city has been redeveloping or targeting for redevelopment.
“Land aggregation is critical to continuing to redevelop and continuing to do what’s put Carmel on the map for the last 25 years,” Brainard said, adding that the city wouldn’t be committed only to sites on the list and that officials could use the funds for other parcels if a redevelopment opportunity arises.
Councilor Adam Aasen said he was troubled by some of the addresses on the list.
“These are occupied buildings full of small businesses, many of whom are mom-and-pop businesses that have been around for decades,” he said. “I see the role of the CRC as taking undesirable properties, buying them and turning them into something desirable. These are some of the more desirable properties in the city, and besides COVID, they’re all doing very well.”
Aasen, whose family owns Donatello’s Italian Restaurant on Main Street in the Arts & Design District, said he is not in favor of telling small business owners — who have already been battered by the pandemic — they may soon have to relocate, likely to somewhere with higher rent.
“It’s really disheartening at this time when small businesses are struggling so much that we want to buy up occupied buildings full of small businesses and tear them down using public debt,” he said. “You’re going to have a hard time convincing me on that.”
Brainard said that the city works closely with businesses forced to relocate to find new locations.
“Muldoon’s is an example. They were very concerned about relocating,” Brainard said of the restaurant near Main Street and the Monon Greenway. “If you asked their owners today, they would say it’s the best thing that ever happened to them.”
Councilors said they support adding a provision that requires council review and approval before the CRC uses the bond funds to purchase land.
Councilor Tim Hannon pointed to one of the CRC’s most recent projects — Hotel Carmichael, which cost 46 percent more than original estimates — as a reason he is unlikely to approve funds without more details on how they will be spent.
“You’re only as good as your last anesthetic,” said Hannon, an anesthesiologist. “We have not always done the best with taxpayer dollars. We have some recent issues that need to be addressed.”
Other proposed projects in the bond include nearly $6 million for various projects, including garage improvements and a water tower light show, and $4 million for roundabout beautification.
The committee will hold its next meeting at 5 p.m. Feb. 10. The full council will have the final vote on the bonds.
INCLUDED IN THE BOND
- Carmel Clay Historical Society expansion — $2.5 million
- Water tower light display — $1.5 million
- Electronic information kiosks — $650,000
- CPAC interior signage — $225,000
- Tarkington garage improvements — $720,000
- Sophia Square garage improvements — $200,000
- 96th Street roundabout art by Arlon Bayliss — $2.5 million
- Zotec roundabout art — $500,000
- Roundabout landscaping — $1 million
- Land acquisition — $13,440,000