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Carmel purchases strip mall as latest piece in fulfilling their downtown masterplan

CARMEL, Ind. -- Carmel's master plan for a burgeoning downtown is taking another step forward, but it comes through a hotly contested City Council vote.

The city now owns the Monon Square Shopping Center along Rangeline Road.  In a narrow 4-3 vote, the council approved a measure to buy the land for $15 million.  The old strip mall sits right between two of the city's most popular sections.  When Mayor Jim Brainard ran for office more than 20 years ago, he vowed to redesign the downtown area.  This parcel of land is one of the key parts to the puzzle.

“Citizens are really looking for a walkable downtown, and he’s told that story hundreds of times," said City Councilor Jeff Worrell of Brainard's plan. "This particular parcel lies between our Arts and Design district and our mid-town, and the city center.”

The land currently brings in only $61,000 in property tax revenue, but plans for a 5-6 story mixed-use building would bring in roughly $3 million.  A few of the current business owners in the square said they intend to remain on the revamped property as long as the city keeps it affordable.

“We have a lot of devoted members that want to come here and want to continue to come here," said Stephanie Southern, owner of Iron Fit Boxing Gym. “[With] a new space, maybe more people will get to know that we are here.”

Construction is still a few years away. While some businesses may choose to leave, the city hopes more will stay. The belief is that the apartments above and improved aesthetics will help drive business.

"That’s the big question, will the offsetting rent be offset in increased revenue?" asked Reggae Grill owner Eldon Chuck. “The plan for us would be to stay, only because we’ve invested time and resources into developing this spot.”

The city is open to ideas for the space and ways to retain the businesses there.  Construction is expected to come in phases, which could allow businesses to stay open as other parts are being built.  The city is working to devise construction relocation plans as well.