Indy Star – Carmel to redevelop U.S. 31 office park into City Center-type area

Carmel is bringing the ideas it used to redevelop Midtown and City Center in the city’s downtown to the U.S. 31 corridor and plans to transform office buildings and large parking lots into neighborhoods with homes and retail.

The first of these projects is planned at the 96th street border with Indianapolis, near the southeastern intersection of U.S. 31 and Interstate 465.

The property is home to office buildings and large parking lots that fill during the day and empty at night. 

Pennsylvania-based Rubenstein Partners, the company that owns the office park known as Parkwood Crossing, wants to redevelop the property and turn it into a neighborhood with retail, housing and office space. They are working with Boston-based Principle Group and urban planner Jeff Speck of Massachusetts-based Speck and Associates who designed the Monon Boulevard through Midtown Carmel. 

The plan has been years in the making. In 2017, Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard told IndyStar of his plan to reconfigure office parks on U.S. 31 into “little villages” and the Rubenstein Project is likely to be a catalyst for transforming other office parks along U.S. 31 into neighborhoods with amenities like Carmel’s burgeoning downtown area.

Brainard told IndyStar Parkwood Crossing can be a vibrant development with homes, offices and shops that doesn’t close down when work ends at 5:30 on weekdays.

“Villages often used to be built with a church or a hill and the village was around it,” Brainard said. “In this case, we’re going to have an office tower with a small village around it.” 

The project, like Carmel City Center and Midtown could take many years before it is completed.

“This is Carmel continuing to innovate,” Carmel Redevelopment Director Henry Mestetsky said. “It’s a perfect marriage between the developer doing the right thing because it enhances their own asset, but it also benefits the city. We want our residents to enjoy these public amenities.”

What is planned at Carmel Gateway? 

The idea for Carmel Gateway came from planned improvements on College Avenue, which bisects the property. The city is planning roundabouts at the intersections with 96th Street and with Parkwood Crossing.

More:Carmel has plans for 9 more roundabouts. Here’s where

Brian Simel, executive vice president of asset development for Rubenstein Partners said discussion with the city about the roundabout projects led to the idea for Carmel Gateway.

“It’s increasingly our belief that you’ve got to be more than just an office park,” Simel said. “The the whole live work play thing comes to mind and we really believe that it’s a better experience for all of our tenants and frankly, anyone in the area if an office park in an ocean of parking can be transformed into an actual place.”

The 50-acre property at Parkwood Crossing includes three large office buildings totaling 640,000 square feet, which will remain on the property. Parking garages and other amenities will be built around them largely using what are now vast parking lots. There is also a large pond on the property.

“These parking lots are really wasted assets,” Brainard said. “First of all, they’re not very pretty to look at. They’re not good for the environment.”

The project will have around 714,000 square feet of office buildings, 3,361 parking spaces mainly in several parking garages, nearly 90,000 square feet of retail, about 1,200 townhome and apartments and an 87,000 square-foot hotel. 

Plans include a triangular courtyard near the pond. Parking structures will be built along I-465 in an effort to hide noise from the highway. Apartment buildings will hide the parking structures from street view.

Simel said Rubenstein Partners is looking at this concept for other properties the company owns around the country. The characteristics that make Carmel Gateway able to convert into a neighborhood are shared by most office parks, making it a “replicable concept,” Speck said.

“This neighborhood will have enough collective shops, housing, hotel, office, and other activity to make it a place in its own right,” Speck said. “And that’s that’s particularly necessary because the organization of Carmel as a whole is auto centric and disjointed.”