Conner Prairie reduces size of office building, reroutes trail in proposed Carmel expansion


Plans for the expansion of Conner Prairie into Carmel continue to be refined.

The Carmel City Council’s Land Use and Special Studies Committee met Sept. 26 to review the latest iteration of a planned unit development rezoning ordinance that would set development guidelines specific to the site.

Conner Prairie, a living history museum, owns more than 1,000 acres that straddle the White River south of 146th Street, with all existing development east of the river in Fishers. Plans in Carmel include a ticketed exhibit area north of a White River Ecology Center, eco-lodge, office building and more.

The most significant change made to the proposal since the last public meeting is reducing the size of the office building from 70,000 to 55,000 square feet, limiting its height to two stories and shifting it north. Decreasing the size of the office building will also lead to the elimination of two parking lots and expansion of a landscaped buffer area between the Conner Prairie property and nearby neighborhoods.

With the office building height reduced, Conner Prairie is requesting the White River Education Center be permitted to be two stories tall instead of one.

Other new updates include limiting special events in the exhibit area to 52 days per year and rerouting a public pathway that connects with existing trails.

“(Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation) would like some addition frontage along the riverfront, and we feel this is a good way to accomplish this and still allow for flexibility for development to occur in a coordinated way,” said Aaron Kowalski, a planner with MKSK involved with the project. “This also allows for the trail to come close to the front door of the White River Ecology Center.”

Councilor Sue Finkam, whose district includes the proposed expansion site, asked project officials for a commitment to not construct buildings other than those outlined in the PUD without coming back to the council for approval, adding flashing beacons at a proposed crosswalk and committing to clean up trash along River Road adjacent to the property.

The committee is set to reconvene at 5 p.m. Oct. 16 to continue discussing the proposed expansion. The city council must vote on the PUD by Oct. 25, otherwise the version approved by the Carmel Plan Commission will go into effect.