River Road improvements in Carmel could begin this summer
By Pete Smith
There was excitement in the air of the Prairie View Golf Club on April 16as more than a 100 people piled into the clubhouse to listen to a presentation on new developments for northeast Carmel that had been organized by City Councilor Sue Finkam.
And the big news to come out of the meeting was that a portion of River Road could be reconstructed beginning this summer.
The first phase of construction is still in the design stage, said new city engineer Jeremy Kashman. That phase encompasses the roadway just north and south of Prairie Trace Elementary School. The second phase would extend to 146th Street, and both would eventually become a wide two-lane boulevard with a landscaped median to match the design of River Road to the south.
The second phase of River Road improvements just south of 146th Street would be completed as funds become available, Kashman said. But plans call for multi-use paths on both sides of the new roadway and a potential new roundabout at the point where River Road would intersect with an extended Cherry Creek Boulevard.
The speed-limit on the improved stretch of River Road would default to 35 mph unless the city council chose to alter it, Mayor Jim Brainard said.
“The main benefit of improving River Road is delivering a safer walking, biking and driving experience for residents,” Finkam said. “A new multi-use path will get walkers and bikers off the street, and a new roundabout on River Road north of the school will act as a traffic calming device to help regulate speeds.”
No dates for potential road closures were announced at the meeting.
TIF funds from the adjacent Legacy project that had accumulated since 2011 had originally been slated to fund the road improvements, but the Carmel Redevelopment Commission used the bulk of those funds ($963,472) to pay down debt associated with the construction of the Center for the Performing Arts and the Palladium.
Only $63,945 remained available for use on the River Road improvements, prompting the city council to issue a $12 million bond in November 2013 on behalf of Legacy Project developer Paul Rioux, who will be held solely responsible for the debt.
However, future revenues from the TIF district will be used to pay back the bonds, Rioux said.
Gas station coming soon
The Legacy Project will also bring with it the gas station that northeast Carmel residents have been clamoring for.
A Rickers Gas Station will be constructed at the southwest corner of 146th Street and River Road. The design will be all brick construction with lighting that won’t contribute light pollution to the surrounding properties.
Rioux said getting the gas station approved was a 2-year process.
Brainard said the challenge was that northeast Carmel has a surficial aquifier with a water table close to the surface that many central Indiana cities, including Carmel, draw drinking water from. Other mayors had asked that Carmel’s mayor veto plans for the gas station to protect the wellfields, but Brainard said that a unique design will protect the water from the threat of a possible underground tank leak or surface spill.
The underground gasoline storage tanks at the gas station will be triple protected – an Indiana first. And though Brainard said he wasn’t aware of any contamination that occurred with similar designs throughout the country, he was confident that any spill or leak could be contained without jeopardizing the water supply.
And Finkam said the gas station would improve nearby residents’ lives.
“Not having to drive significantly out of the way to get gas or other convenience items will provide residents more time to fit in the wide variety of other activities that compete for time,” she said. “Similar to the overall Carmel demographic, most northeast side residents are working adults and many have young children in the home. Time is limited.
Legacy project details
The Legacy project calls for a 100-acre park, the extension of Cherry Creek Boulevard to meet River Road, the creation of Community Drive with a stoplight at 146th Street and a wide variety of new homes, apartments/condos and businesses.
Rioux estimated that it will contain 1,220 new residences. And with and estimated 2.67 people per residence it would add about 3,200 people to Carmel’s current population.
“The recession is over and residential is coming out strong,” Rioux said, noting that no complete construction timeline is in place, but that Legacy will add some significant pieces in the next two years.
Brainard said the effect on Prairie Trace Elementary is not currently known, but ne noted that Carmel Clay Schools have seen declining enrollments due to a lower birth rate, so the overall effect on the school district is predicted to be minimal.
“Legacy is going to be good for this city and good for this neighborhood,” he said.
Rioux noted that the homes, condos and apartments will be high-quality, even though many will be built on smaller lots with increased density.
“I wouldn’t assume that solely because it’s a smaller lot, it’s a lower-priced home,” Brainard said.