By Kevin Rader, WTHR political reporter - bio | email
The Carmel Arts and Design District has brought new attention to downtown.
Jill Zaniker has operated a candy store in Carmel for four years.
CARMEL, Ind. -
To many, Carmel is the shining city on the hill in Indiana. To others, it is a community that is on the verge of having to pay the piper for extravagant spending.
As a community of 83,000, Carmel is known for many things. At the top of the list is the fact that it is one of the most affluent communities in America. The city's unemployment rate is 4.5 percent, well below the state average.
Eyewitness News went "On The Road" and decided to let the residents speak for themselves about why they like to live there.
"Well the biggest reason we came here was the school system and a great place to raise a family, as they say," said Jim Taylor.
"I love the neighborhood, the environment. A lot of things for the kids, the school system is wonderful," said Angela Patton.
"I love how accessible it is to get around Carmel. I think the roundabouts, once we learned how to drive on them, I think they are fabulous. I can't say anything negative about this community. I think it is a beautiful community and our mayor is visionary," said Linda Kennen.
Yet amidst all of the abundance, there is uncertainty.
"I think we have a tendency to spend too much money. I think we need to balance those books," said Mark May.
"Mixed feelings about that. In a lot of ways, it has helped the city raise its profile. It's got a great national reputation. I don't like the prospect of increased taxes, but haven't seen it yet, so mixed feelings on that," said Taylor.
"I think they spent a lot of money on those stores downtown. I think the roundabouts and the Palladium, but other than that, no. I think we wasted a lot of tax dollars," Patton said.
"No, you have to spend to have the facilities available," said David Horton.
Mayor Jim Brainard says the concern is understandable, but explained his city's situation.
"Carmel has debt, because it is like a young family who goes out to get a mortgage on their first house, but our debt in relation to our assessed value is the lowest anywhere. We have a Triple-A bond rating and we have some of the lowest taxes anywhere in Indiana and those taxes, we are prospecting, will stay low for the next twenty years," Brainard said.
If that proves to be true, then Carmel will be well positioned for the future.
Small business is key
The key to success in the Carmel Arts and Design District is small business. There are small businesses all along the district, but few are more interesting or maybe we should say sweet, than the Simply Sweet Shoppe.
It was the brainchild of Carmel resident Jill Zaniker, who grew up in the city and, in some ways, is trying to bring her childhood to a whole new generation.
"We used to have that candy store I went to and it's no longer here. Everybody has that place that they grew up that was a candy store. Whether it was a gas station or convenience store, it evoked memories, so I wanted to be that for the community," Zaniker said. "This is home to me and I can hopefully be an asset to the community in bringing memories."
Zaniker offers samples at her store, but there is a limit.
"If you put on a glove, if you see something interesting and you want to try it, put on a glove and you can have a taste. I will cut you off if it turns into grazing or lunch," she said.
She thinks the change she's seen in Carmel during her life is a good thing.
"I think it's great and how great is it we got recognition from Money magazine. That is wonderful and it's going to help small business and small businesses are what makes the community unique," Zaniker said.
"Right down the street I grew up on, Carmel Drive, and there was a huge apple orchard, but that has been gone for years and years. Definitely the landscape has changed," she said. "Growing up here, I remember, even when I was in college and came back, things had changed. Now it's growing leaps and bounds, specifically here in the District."
She says one of the biggest differences in the town is the amount of foot traffic.
"To walk down that street now, the thing is, no one was walking down the street and now people are walking," Zaniker said. "I started in 2008 and we weren't sure if we could continue and 'Should we lose as much as we put in, or should we dive in?' and we are still here after four years."