Livable cities? Carmel ‘gets it’: Gramercy, other projects will keep city on a roll

Carmel housewife jokes went out of style years ago, but Indy’s wealthy neighbor to the north still takes plenty of heat for being uptight and plain vanilla. Too bad, because Carmel’s recent past demonstrates it’s no soulless suburb.

Buckingham Properties’ proposed Gramercy development is the latest sign that Carmel’s leadership knows a thing or two about creating a livable city-even if some of its residents don’t.

The Gramercy project, profiled in last week’s IBJ, drew more opposition than support at last week’s Carmel Plan Commission meeting. Carmel Plan Director Mike Hollibaugh said the city administration is excited about the proposal, but that didn’t stop neighbors from coming out against it.

Chief among their concerns are increased traffic, higher taxes and displacement of residents from the Mohawk Hills apartments, which they say are among the few affordable housing options remaining in Carmel.

If the 116-acre project at 126th Street and Keystone Avenue gets the nod from Carmel city officials, the Mohawk apartments and an adjoining golf course would be replaced over the next decade with homes, businesses and small parks built around a European-style civic plaza.

To the extent Gramercy would wipe out housing that’s cheap by Carmel standards, it should include a component that an entry-level teacher or store clerk could afford, but broader benefits of the project shouldn’t be overlooked.

We applaud Gramercy’s pedestrian-friendly design and its potential to further distance Carmel from the past, when it had a reputation as primarily a collection of upscale, yet sterile, subdivisions.

Gramercy would be the latest in a string of Carmel initiatives that will give residents a variety of housing styles to choose from, free them from their cars, and provide more opportunities for culture and recreation.

Among the attractions is Central Park, a 161-acre complex of indoor and outdoor recreational facilities now under construction on both sides of the Monon Trail between 111th and 116th streets. Central Park is scheduled to open in spring of 2007.

Also straddling the Monon is Carmel’s City Center, a developing complex of office, retail, dining and housing space that will include the city’s new performing arts center.

Carmel doesn’t always understand the practical benefits of what it’s creating. A recently approved speed limit on its portion of the Monon Trail, for example, makes the trail safer for the stroller crowd at the expense of cyclists who want to use the trail to commute to work. And with names like Central Park and Gramercy, folks in Carmel could stand to put away the New York City map and come up with some original names.

But those are minor points. The critical mass of interconnecting, quality developments Carmel is assembling demonstrates city leaders know what it will take to lure talent and investment in the decades to come.

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