Sophia Square courtyard renovation moves forward

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A public square is planned for the interior plaza of Sophia Square Apartments. (Submitted photo)

A public square is planned for the interior plaza of Sophia Square Apartments. (Submitted photo)

The Carmel Redevelopment Commission is moving forward with plans to renovate the interior plaza of the Sophia Square Apartments on Main Street to create a public square for events.

The Carmel City Council previously approved $50,000 to design the courtyard, which has been described as, “a multi-purpose civic plaza serving residents and merchants of Sophia Square, City of Carmel festival goers, visitors of the Arts and Design District and individuals/organizations that would reserve the space for special events.”

Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard recently discussed plans for the project, which hasn’t been bid out yet but could cost up to $800,000. He said the project is funded through the CRC’s budget and was intended to already be underway by now, but officials held off during the recession. The CRC also had some room in the budget after settling several lawsuits dealing with the The Palladium.

“We are finally getting back to the original plan now that the recession is behind us,” Brainard said.

The CRC aims to complete the project in 2016 but a start date hasn’t been set.

Plans show a large double-sided limestone fireplace that allows the courtyard to be enjoyed year round. There are fire pits and seating areas and green screens to provide privacy to the apartment building’s pool. It includes two breezeways with lights and benches. And there’s room dedicated for outdoor dining for several businesses, including The Pint Room.

Some city councilors previously expressed concerns about using public money to build outdoor dining for private businesses. Brainard said these areas are meant for the public and aren’t owned by the businesses. He said restaurants — which can change — can apply to use the space, but they must meet some common sense requirements, such as keeping the area trash-free and using tables and chairs that match. He presented a binder full of past agreements with businesses such as Mudbugs or Old Town Tavern, which have outdoor seating that was constructed by the city.

“We’ve never had any problems in the past,” he said.

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