Carmel mayor unveils plans for outdoor ice rink near Palladium



Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard unveiled a big surprise at his 2016 State of the City Speech.

At the OneZone luncheon hosted Oct. 11 at Ritz Charles, Brainard announced city plans to construct an ice-skating rink where the center green is located, just outside of The Palladium.

The ice rink would be part of a Center Green Plaza, where the grass field would be replaced with a hard surface, allowing it to be easily used for festivals. In the winter, this plaza could be transformed into an area for ice skating. Around the ice skating rink, the City of Carmel will create its own Christkindle Market, where people can shop for holiday crafts and buy refreshments during the holiday season.

“We live in Indiana and enjoy all four seasons,” Brainard said. “That, unfortunately for some, includes winter. Until now, we haven’t provided a lot of winter-weather activities or outside events. That, however, is about to change … Many of you might have visited (ice-skating) areas such as this in Chicago or New York City. They become gathering places through the winter months and add so much vibrancy to a time of year with many hours of darkness.”

The City of Carmel hired Rundell Ernstberger Associates to do the work, and that firm already created renderings that were displayed to the 600 people at the luncheon. The total project cost will be a little more than $5 million, including design. The city hasn’t signed any contracts yet.

Brainard said after the speech he expects the project to be complete by fall or winter of 2017. Construction should begin next summer. He said it shouldn’t negatively affect the space for the Carmel Farmers Market.

Ron Carter, president of the Carmel City Council and founder of the Carmel Farmers Market, said the new plaza design could actually mean more space for farmers-market vendors.

Brainard said the current center green isn’t always usable, because it could be rainy or muddy. He noted that some green space will be preserved and trees will be planted. This public space will be owned by the city and could be reserved through the Board of Public Works for weddings, fundraisers, festivals and more.

In addition to the announcement, Brainard looked back at several ongoing and recently completed projects in Carmel, including an aggressive schedule for road construction. He said in October or early November he expects the 100th roundabout to be complete in Carmel. As of Oct. 11, there are 97 roundabouts in the city, already the most of any U.S. city. He explained to attendees why the city is working on intersections that aren’t yet congested. He said it’s important to “anticipate growth.”

“While it may take more time to plan your route in the morning during periods of heavy road construction, the resulting roadway network will bring us benefits for years in the future,” he said. “Long-term congestion is being avoided because of our aggressive approach to anticipating future problem areas. If we want to attract businesses and be able to continue to grow, we have to make sure we have made it easy to navigate through our community efficiently and safely.”

Brainard detailed his proudest achievements over the past year, including hosting a party for the U.S. Conference of Mayors, new corporate headquarters relocating to Carmel and new construction in the City Center and Midtown areas.

“Many of you have heard me talk about building a city that will still be relevant in 100 to 500 years,” he said. “In order to do this, we must pay attention to what helps people live their best lives.”

Brainard also addressed immigration, a hot topic in the 2016 presidential election. Brainard said after the speech that harsh rhetoric from some such as Donald Trump isn’t what he thinks the Republican Party should be about.

“We must not underestimate the importance of our immigrant communities, as they add to the fabric and energy of our city,” he said. “They have worked tremendously hard to move here because they want to raise their children as Americans.”

Brainard ended his speech with a strong defense of his aggressive development strategy for the city. He said it’s important to think big.

“I am excited also about our future as we continue to grow and develop as one of the best places anywhere to live, work and truly thrive,” Brainard said in his speech. “As we build this great city together, I am reminded of the words of Daniel Burnham, one of the men who designed the city of Chicago. He said, ‘Make no small plans; they do not have the power to stir men’s souls.’ He was right. Let’s continue to dream big together.”