Welcome to Midtown Plaza
The Plaza Brings Vibrant Revitalization & Unique Amenities to Carmel’s Old Industrial Area
Photographer / Amy Payne
According to Carmel Mayor James Brainard, Midtown Plaza is the result of a big-picture, collective vision among local leaders.
“As we try to redesign the area to be competitive, we’re trying to design the center part of the city where people can live, work and play, and really not need their car very much,” he says. “The Plaza is just one part of that.”
The end result for the 14,000-square-foot Midtown Plaza, which sits adjacent to the Monon Greenway, is a family-friendly space with plenty of amenities, including green spaces for families and groups to congregate and enjoy, as well as shaded tables, patio furniture, benches and a large video screen used for the free Movies at Midtown film series. The Railyard at Midtown complex features luxury apartment units, many of which include Monon Greenway views.
“When I was a kid and a young adult, people found a job and then went to that city,” Brainard says. “Now it’s the other way around. Now economic development has to work in such a way that the employers have to go where the workers want to be. Midtown Plaza is one of the things we’re doing to try to go from becoming a suburb where you always need a car to a walkable, neighbor-centric place with strong amenities.”
The Plaza opened on July 4 of last year, and Brainard says the response was immediately positive. The overall Midtown Carmel development is an Old Town Design Group project. The development has seen great community response.
“It’s crowded almost every day – in fact we had to close in March when COVID-19 started because people were not distancing,” he says. “We have signage out now and the screen there does public service announcements about how to physically distance. The southern two blocks of street nearby just opened up in August so we’re very excited about that too.”
All-ages play areas at Midtown Plaza feature ping-pong tables, bocce ball courts, cornhole equipment and public art. Visitors can bring their own picnic materials like coolers, food and lawn chairs, and nearby restaurants offer drinks that visitors can take out to the Plaza area. A few eateries like Sun King Brewery and Fork + Ale House offer guests the option to dine while they are taking advantage of the Plaza’s various amenities.
This summer Midtown Plaza hosted Midday at Midtown, during which visitors could take a lunch break outside at the Plaza’s tables and benches, and listen to live music, every Tuesday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The Movies at Midtown series this season has included “The Incredibles”, “The Lion King”, “Beauty and the Beast” and “A League of Their Own.” The screenings are held on Mondays with three show times per day at 2:30 p.m., 5 p.m and 7:30 p.m.
Brainard says Carmel leaders recognize the importance of revitalizing the city’s old industrial area, which is south of the Arts and Design District.
“In the midtown area we’ve reduced the lanes on Rangeline Road, but we’ve added Veteran’s Way and Monon Boulevard, so we’ve increased the number of lanes, but we’ve made them smaller and less high-speed traffic areas to encourage pedestrianism,” he says.
After Brainard, a board member with the nonprofit organization International Making Cities Livable Council, talked with a fellow board member, Copenhagen-based architect and urban design consultant Jan Gehl, about Carmel’s development, the city leaders hired Gehl’s firm to undertake a study of the area and how it could be improved.
“I think all the people who worked on the designs for the Plaza really hit a home run on it,” Brainard says. “The Monon Boulevard is busy all the time, and we’ve had a tremendous amount of good attendance at the Plaza. The idea behind this redesign for the area is to keep the urban density low but to have it dense enough that your ground-floor retail is supported. That’s what people want – they want those ground-floor restaurants, dry cleaners, outdoor cafes and so on.”
Midtown Plaza is situated near a few of the area’s major employers like Merchants Bank, F.C. Tucker, MJ Insurance and Allied Solutions, which Brainard says adds to the Plaza’s appeal.
“Mark Lautman wrote a book called ‘When the Boomers Bail’ recently, and he’s been in economic development his whole life in the Phoenix area,” Brainard says. “His thesis is that we have almost 35 to 40% of our workforce that is going to retire in the next 10 years, and there will be a tremendous shortage. There will be cities that win and cities that lose, and the cities that win will do things like what we’re trying to do in midtown.”
For additional info on Midtown Plaza Carmel including upcoming events, visit midtownplazacarmel.com.