With empty land becoming more scarce in Carmel, Mayor Jim Brainard is looking at expansive parking lots throughout the U.S. 31 corridor to spur new development.
Brainard envisions the city partnering with developers to transform acres of “ugly parking lots” into “small walkable villages” surrounding the existing office buildings.
“Much like when you go to Europe, you’ve got a church on a hill with little villages around it,” Brainard said. “That’s sort of what the office tower will be.”
Carmel Redevelopment Commission Director Henry Mestetsky said he’s had preliminary discussions with developers about bringing mixed-use projects to the corridor. He envisions the redeveloped parking lots eventually resembling Midtown Plaza with multi-family residential units and other uses surrounding a gathering area.
The city could use tax increment financing to help fund parking garages, Mestetsky said, which would be used by workers during the day and residents and visitors at night. He said a similar arrangement has proven to be successful in a Midtown garage that serves Merchants Bank employees during office hours and The Railyard residents and visitors at other times.
In addition, many people want to live near where they work and spend their free time, Mestetsky said.
“You’ve now created new neighborhoods and new life,” he said. “That’s where people want to work these days. They want to go downstairs and find a place to eat. They want to go downstairs and find people playing in an urban plaza.”
Unlike vacant land, the office parks already have utilities and infrastructure running through them, erasing one hurdle for developers.