Has Carmel lost its development vision?


Commentary By Jeffrey Lauer

This question was on my mind when I attended the B.B. King concert at the Palladium the Tuesday before last. As I sat there listening to a legend I could not help but appreciate the opportunity, because it was one that this community could not have accommodated just two years ago.

The Center for the Preforming Arts was the centerpiece of a political and financial tug-of-war recently. The casualty of which, I suggest, was a sense of the social, cultural and economic value added by civic investments like the Palladium and Tarkington Theater. Now that the issue has been settled and Carmel has agreed to refinance the debt I feel it is appropriate to explore this issue that was not discussed much, if at all.

The night before the concert I attended the Carmel City Council meeting that decided the fate of the CRC and its $195 million debt. The mood was heavy and as each speaker presented his or her arguments the feeling thickened. At the end, City Council President Rick Sharp drew an analogy he felt would help explain the situation in layman’s terms. “Imagine,” he said, “that Chrysler builds a car for you and advertises all its features, but in order to enjoy it you must first pay off its debt!” “You would ask,” he said, “that the head of Chrysler step down.” Although I agree, there is something critical missing in his analogy. Namely, a sense of proportion: is a Chrysler automobile analogous to a world-class center for the preforming arts?

There is more and more evidence today to suggest that young people, like myself, are choosing where they want to live and then finding work. This is a different dynamic than a generation ago. While cities are scrambling around in economic competition, it is civic investments like the Palladium (and the entire Arts & Design District) that add an incalculable social and cultural value—a value that makes Carmel an alluring community for the young professional talent that makes Carmel truly competitive. Will Carmel envision its future absent investments in major arts and cultural institutions or understand that Carmel’s competitiveness hangs on places like the Palladium?


Jeffrey Lauer is a contract planner for the city of Indianapolis.

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