CARMEL, Ind. – Carmel is unlike any other city in Indiana, if for no other reason, everyone has an opinion about it.
The affluent Hamilton County suburb is booming with new buildings, new restaurants…and yes, new roundabouts. The traffic circles have made Carmel famous, or notorious depending on your driving habits.
The man responsible for all those roundabouts is Mayor Jim Brainard. He has ostensibly been the CEO of Carmel for more than 20 years.
“You go back to the Roman Empire, they figured it out, how to move goods and people and that’s the essence of any successful city, you gotta move people and commerce through the city,” says Brainard.
Jim Brainard has built more than 100 roundabouts. He says they save time, money and even lives compared to traditional intersections.
“It’s really about speed, the human error rate never changes, we still have accidents, but the difference is they are minor fender benders, not serious accidents where people die or go to the hospital,” says the mayor.
The roundabouts are part of a strategy Brainard has pushed to attract corporations to make Carmel their new home. He’s willing to compete on a national level.
“We have to build the sort of city where they can recruit the kind of people they need and we’re competing against Boston and California and Florida and Europe and beautiful places all over the world,” he said.
Maybe more importantly, those corporations provide the tax base to pay for Carmel’s transformation. Brainard points out property taxes for Carmel residents have remained low. Despite skepticism, he says his projects have paid for themselves.
“People who’ve lived here for 20 years have seen their taxes decline for the most part. We built Hazel Dell Parkway in my first term, we borrowed 32 million dollars to build that. “People said, ‘oh its going to be a huge bill’, a lot of money in 1996, it’s been paid off.”
Earlier in 2018, Carmel purchased the Monon Square Shopping Plaza for 15 million dollars. The old plaza sticks out amid the new construction. It’s another project Brainard says will more than pay for itself when it’s transformed.
“Beautiful architecture, place where people can live and work and play. It’s that general formula and then we work with the community to come up with specifics.”
Jim Brainard has faced critic in his tenure. But, he’s been mayor long enough to see many of his ideas for Carmel to become reality. It’s why he’s running again in 2019.
“Oh, I have fun every day, there’s always something new. What a great opportunity to help shape and build a brand new city. Not many people get that opportunity.