MORRIS: Palladium spotlights a Carmel all can be proud of

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MorrisAs the debut of the Palladium in Carmel has taken center stage, I have been reflecting on the amazing ascent of what used to be a sleepy town. Extensive press coverage and well-deserved accolades being bestowed upon the Palladium combined with a recent birthday (I turned 55) have me in a reflective mood.

I’m old enough to remember when Carmel was mostly a patchwork of farms and cornfields. The downtown area, which is now home of the Arts & Design district, was populated by just a few buildings. You could drive from one end of town to the other in less than 10 minutes.

More than just Carmel, Hamilton County as a whole has had an amazing transformation. Certainly Fishers, Noblesville and Westfield have many accomplishments to boast about. The entire county has grown tremendously.

I can speak with some authority on this subject as I am a lifelong resident of Carmel and Hamilton County. I went through the Carmel school system, as did my three kids. The school system is a little larger today than when I attended. And with an enrollment of more than 4,400, Carmel High School is larger than many colleges and has an excellent reputation for academics and successful sports programs.

The transformation in Carmel did not happen by accident. Excellent leadership has been at the forefront of this progression. All the way back to Al Pickett, Carmel’s first mayor—followed by Jane Reiman, Dottie Hancock, Ted Johnson and Jim Brainard—great vision has been a consistent attribute of Carmel’s mayors. The succession parallels that of Indianapolis and all the great mayors we’ve had that have demonstrated vision and courage to make our city what it is today.

My kids grew up as frequent guests at Ted Johnson’s home. Ted was mayor of Carmel from 1992 to 1995. There were a lot of weekends spent out back by the pool watching our kids swim and talking about the issues of the day. It was such a great time in all our lives. That was probably the first time I was keenly aware of all that was going on in Carmel. I like to think that Johnson got things rolling for Carmel, then Jim Brainard picked up the baton and ran with it. And, oh, how he has run.

As with any high-profile position, you’re going to have fans and detractors. Brainard certainly has his share of both. There’s not a lot of middle ground here. The biggest complaints have revolved around his intense focus on accomplishing his objectives and the amount of money it takes to do that. However, Carmel is blessed with a very healthy tax base and property tax rates remain extremely low, especially considering all the available amenities.

It is hard to deny that the mayor has accomplished some amazing things that have enhanced life in Carmel. All those roundabouts some people make fun of really do keep traffic moving. In the past, it could take well over 30 minutes to get east to west across town. The Keystone Parkway project was a pain during construction, but now enables you to drive south to north from 96th Street to 146th Street without hitting a stoplight. Yes, it took some very expensive roundabouts to accomplish this.

The previously mentioned Arts & Design District, the Monon Center that came along with the extension of the Monon Trail, The Carmel City Center, The Center for Performing Arts with the amazing Palladium as the centerpiece and the soon-to-open Studio Theater and Tarkington Theater are all wonderful amenities that have blossomed during Brainard’s tenure.

Agree or not with all the methods, Carmel is a city on the move and is a great asset for our region. Space does not allow me to address how important the region is as a whole to the success of all of us, no matter where we live or work in the area. Downtown Indianapolis has to be healthy for Carmel to be healthy. I love working in downtown Indianapolis, and I am pleased to live in Carmel.

It’s a relationship that works in concert together. On that note, catch a show at the Palladium. It’s an awesome venue and I think you will have an experience like none other.•

Morris is publisher of IBJ. His column appears every other week. To comment on this column, send e-mail to gmorris@ibj.com.


  • Really?!?
    and the South separated and formed a Confederacy...Your comments are relevant how to today?
  • White Flight Built Carmel
    If you look at the history of the US, and how the suburbs were built through the codification of red lining in FHA lending standards, it is easy to see how white flight from Indianapolis happened, and why carmel has grown as quickly as it has.

    Post WWII the first wave of white people left the city for the suburbs. Shortly after, the banks decided that they were done lending in "red lined" neighborhoods (those with minority populations), and would only lend in "green lined" neighborhoods (whites only). So now, no matter if you were a racist OR non-racist, you could only get a loan in a white neighborhood; if you were a minority, you just couldn't get a loan.

    The sterile whites only suburbs expanded, leaving cities to the minorities and the poor. The urban cores broke down and most of what people now call the intercity "ghetto" was created. The racists and the banks worked to keep the black families out of the suburbs for as long as they could until race relations reached a boiling point around the 1960's ultimately culminating in the civil right act of 1968.

    Due to the history of the suburbs in the US, they are typically more white, conservative, and racist. Hamilton county has a long history of being a haven for racism, along with many other "sundown towns" in Indiana. I know that many will object to this history lesson, and I am not saying that everyone in carmel is racist, just that it is a product of the racism of a past generation. I hope that the next generation learns from the mistakes of their ancestors.

    - 35/W/M

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  1. By Mr. Lee's own admission, he basically ran pro-bono ads on the billboard. Paying advertisers didn't want ads on a controversial, ugly billboard that turned off customers. At least one of Mr. Lee's free advertisers dropped out early because they found that Mr. Lee's advertising was having negative impact. So Mr. Lee is disingenous to say the city now owes him for lost revenue. Mr. Lee quickly realized his monstrosity had a dim future and is trying to get the city to bail him out. And that's why the billboard came down so quickly.

  2. Merchants Square is back. The small strip center to the south of 116th is 100% leased, McAlister’s is doing well in the outlot building. The former O’Charleys is leased but is going through permitting with the State and the town of Carmel. Mac Grill is closing all of their Indy locations (not just Merchants) and this will allow for a new restaurant concept to backfill both of their locations. As for the north side of 116th a new dinner movie theater and brewery is under construction to fill most of the vacancy left by Hobby Lobby and Old Navy.

  3. Yes it does have an ethics commission which enforce the law which prohibits 12 specific items. google it

  4. Thanks for reading and replying. If you want to see the differentiation for research, speaking and consulting, check out the spreadsheet I linked to at the bottom of the post; it is broken out exactly that way. I can only include so much detail in a blog post before it becomes something other than a blog post.

  5. 1. There is no allegation of corruption, Marty, to imply otherwise if false. 2. Is the "State Rule" a law? I suspect not. 3. Is Mr. Woodruff obligated via an employment agreement (contractual obligation) to not work with the engineering firm? 4. In many states a right to earn a living will trump non-competes and other contractual obligations, does Mr. Woodruff's personal right to earn a living trump any contractual obligations that might or might not be out there. 5. Lawyers in state government routinely go work for law firms they were formally working with in their regulatory actions. You can see a steady stream to firms like B&D from state government. It would be interesting for IBJ to do a review of current lawyers and find out how their past decisions affected the law firms clients. Since there is a buffer between regulated company and the regulator working for a law firm technically is not in violation of ethics but you have to wonder if decisions were made in favor of certain firms and quid pro quo jobs resulted. Start with the DOI in this review. Very interesting.