Another Carmel restaurant closes, citing U.S. 31 project for hurting business

Another restaurant in Carmel has closed while citing the U.S.  31 revamp for creating a downturn in business.

Mark Pi’s China Gate & Sushi Bar, an Asian food eatery at 12297 N. Meridian St. in Hamilton Crossing Centre, posted a note on its door earlier this week saying Wednesday would be its last day in business.

“It has been very tough to run a restaurant business at this location due to the decreasing traffic that resulted from the U.S. 31 road construction, many local road constructions, and now the empty shopping center over several years,” the note says. “We have made our best efforts to serve you well and survive in this unfavorable environment but the restaurant became no longer financially viable.”

The restaurant was open for eight years. There are no plans to reopen at a different location.

“I want to say goodbye to a lot of my loyal customers over the years,” owner Ming Wang said. “I just feel bad that we had to close this way. I tried to make it work.”

The restaurant served Asian cuisines including Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Thai.

Wang said he made sure his four employees lined up other employment before officially closing the restaurant.

“I wish I had more support from the city,” Wang said. “I was hoping to see better support from Carmel for all the small businesses.”

Mark Pi’s China Gate is at least the fourth restaurant in the area to cite the construction involving U.S. 31 as the reason for closing.

Carmel spokesman Dan McFeely said the city disagrees with that suggestion. He said the problem hasn’t been caused by the highway project, but by the changing strategies of Kite Realty Group Trust, the landlord and owner for Hamilton Crossing Centre.

McFeely said other nearby restaurants, as close as a half-block away, are doing great.

Kite Realty has changed redevelopment plans for the strip mall in the past two years, abandoning original plans to make it an entertainment complex with a movie theater and bowling alley. The company plans to turn Hamilton Crossing into a mixed use development with office, retail, and multi-family tenants, according to its 2019 first quarter report.

McFeely said he thinks the shifting plans are what has caused some tenants to stop renewing their leases in the strip mall.

Kite Realty did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Some may want to argue that the interchange format on U.S. 31 was terrible for businesses in this particular strip mall,” McFeely said in written comments. “But right across the street, the Amber Indian and La Hacienda Mexican restaurants are doing great.”

La Hacienda is across the street in Meridian Park Shoppes, the same center where Bellacino’s Pizza & Grinders closed in November 2017 after 16 years in business. The owner of Bellacino’s blamed the closure on the road changes. The center is nearly half vacant.

Wang said there are several years still left on his lease for his restaurant location, so he is in talks with the landlord.

The four-year, $350 million U.S. 31 project led by the Indiana Department of Transportation included upgrading 13 miles of the busy thoroughfare to interstate standards from Interstate 465 to State Road 38, with 49 new bridges and 12 new interchanges through Carmel and Westfield.

Construction lasted through 2015, with an overpass built at Meridian Street and Carmel Drive/126th Street in 2014.

Vehicles that previously were able to reach businesses in Hamilton Crossing Centre from a busy intersection at Meridian and 126th Street no longer have that option. The nearest exits are now at 116th Street to the south and Main Street (131st Street) to the north.

Visitors can also use the exit at Old Meridian Street, but that takes them behind the retail center instead of to its front.

Wang said all of the businesses in the complex have been “slowly, slowly bleeding” since the removal of the stoplight on U.S. 31 five years ago. He said many drivers don’t know how to enter the Hamilton Crossing shopping center

“There is a lot of success in that entire area that does not depend on easy access by a vehicle,” McFeely said. “At some point, other factors beyond the placement of an interchange have to be taken into consideration.”

The highway reconstruction was a state project, but the city worked to help businesses by launching and promoting several initiatives in 2014 to encourage residents to eat at restaurants overshadowed by the construction.

There are currently 12 open spaces totaling over 65,000 square feet available to rent in Hamilton Crossing Centre, according to Kite Realty’s website.

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26 thoughts on “Another Carmel restaurant closes, citing U.S. 31 project for hurting business

  1. This new system for reading the updates is horrible. I set up a log in and I still can’t see the full article about restaurant closing on 31. Please advise if it will continue to be this difficult to access the articles and I can just unsubscribe

    1. Todd- Maybe it is the new system, but there are very few comments on ANY story that I can see. IBJ usually had pretty a pretty good comment section; I hope they didn’t muck it up the way The Star did with theirs.

    2. Also, is there no way to edit or delete a comment? I messed up my previous comment, and tried to correct it. I’ll have to be more careful (or maybe just not comment.)

    3. You need to be logged in on mobile to see the article. It’s a paid subscription, so you need to be logged in to see it.

    4. I agree that the new system for an e subscriber is lousy. On an iPhone, every time you leave the website after being logged in and reading an article and then return to read another you have to log in again. Did not have to do this in the past. Discourages my use of the IBJ.

  2. Also, from 465 to get on Meridian to go north is a nightmare. Fortunately, I go south. I feel sorry for people who are caught in the 1-2 mile backup every day. There is the same problem for people going on Meridian trying to get onto 465. As usual, whoever designed this didn’t think it thru. Why don’t ‘they ask the public for input? So they can see the flaws of their thinking?

    1. It’s impossible to take this comment seriously if you have ever spent significant time in cities/suburbs similar in size to Indianapolis/Carmel (i.e. Nashville/Brentwood, Columbus/Dublin, Austin/Lakeway, Jacksonville/Sawgrass, etc.). Do so and you will realize that central Indiana has minimal traffic issues.

    2. Agree. I464 and Meridian exchange was poorly designed coming/going north. At a minimum, they need to have 2 west bound lanes to West bound 465. It’s really not much better than pre-construction.

      Visibility / access / laziness hurts both sides facing 31 near 126th.

      I still miss the Bellacinos. :/

  3. Does anyone really think the spokesperson for Carmel is going to agree that the construction was the cause of the downturn in business? I doubt that the business owner would make up a story and he has been in business for 8 years so pretty sure he knows if there is a downturn in business.

    1. Though in reporter’s defense, he/she may be under mistaken idea that Republicans like Brainard believe government is the problem, not the solution. At least that’s what I think Reagan was suggesting (but Reagan also spent like a drunk sailor).

  4. How are some restaurants doing great and others aren’t. Could it be the food? If people want to eat there, they could find. Sorry things didn’t work out, but sometimes you need to look at your offering.

    People seem to find Meijer and the surrounding restaurants with no issues.

  5. They need to tear that complex down and rebuild with housing and restaurants. I know the Carmel formula, but that would provide an audience for that part of the road. Suggestion 2, another corporate HQ with the Hampton Inn right next door.

  6. Thank you for all the comments on not being able to see any of the articles. I thought I was going crazy. I can’t see anything either, and I have a print and digital subscription.

  7. Judging by these comments, I think it is safe to say that the new comments system needs some work. It wasn’t perfect before, but it has gone in the wrong direction; is anybody from IBJ listening? (Maybe they can’t figure it out either 🙂

  8. The number of empty storefronts in Carmel is directly proportional to the increase in city debt. It’s $1.4 billion with no limit in sight.

    Next city hall will try to explain away the unsustainable show biz expenditures and Dizzy Land on the Monon as “prudent investment in the future.”

    1. Non-Mayor, I just biked from the slums here in SoCar (Home Place) to Lowe’s. It looked to me like Clay Terrace is struggling, for sale and lease signs and a few dogs peeing in a park. I can report I did not have a lot of biking competition once off the Monon Trail, even by our biking all-the-time Councilor Kimball.

  9. For those of us who have lived in this area for years – the road construction in this area ABSOLUTELY affected the business in this strip mall. It’s no longer easy to get in and out of this location and roundabout traffic is horrible. Also, La Hacienda has horrible food and rude servers. I used to frequent this strip mall when Jason’s Deli and Max and Erma’s were there. The construction and road closures stopped me from going there after that.

    To the above comment above about treating it down and putting in housing and restaurants, there are enough restaurants around here now (including ones in other areas of the city that previously closed) and putting in additional housing there would increase traffic that would in turn further back up roundabout flow.

    1. La Hacienda moved across the street to a larger location. Always jammed packed. People speak with their wallets.

  10. Yes the road construction is the culprit. My friends and I used to patronize two restaurants there but no longer. Both have closed. It’s a shame.

    I’m glad to know I’m not the only one having log in problems. IBJ – these improvements are NOT improvements as is often the case with tech ‘upgrades’. Getting to the stories on my cell and keeping IBJ on-line is now very difficult. It’s not much easier on my laptop. VERY frustrating.

  11. Thank you for your comments. If you are continuing to have problems logging in to IBJ.com, please contact Mike McGrath at [email protected]. who can help you work through those. We appreciate that you read IBJ. -Lesley Weidenbener, managing editor

  12. Agree on the new article viewing and comments. I have a log in, and sometimes I can read the full article, but other times, such as this article, I cannot.
    As for the restaurants at this intersection, La Hacienda moved across to the west side of 31 and does quite well. Amber Indian has been over there for some time and continues to do well. Now I don’t believe that there is anything else in that strip mall, as the rest of that area appears to be empty.