As a committed downtowner, I like to believe that Indy is the state’s cradle of cool. Sure, Bloomington mounts a serious challenge, and lately I keep hearing surprising things about Fort Wayne, but I never considered Carmel—stylish, yes, but not exactly hip—a hotbed of progressive sensibilities. Yesterday, I had to reconsider. Amid the news that the Indianapolis City-County Council has proposed domestic-partner benefits for municipal employees (28 years after Berkeley, California, became the first American city to do so), the Star pointed out that Carmel already has domestic-partner benefits in place.
Bravo, Carmel. Who knew? And it made me wonder—is Carmel more progressive than I give it credit for? There’s no better person to ask than Aaron Renn, keeper of The Urbanophile blog. Renn, a former Naptown resident, has established himself as a reputable voice nationally on matters of urban design, and he continues to watch closely what happens here. (A recent post explained why he has chosen not to live in Indianapolis anymore, and today’s post runs a response from a reader examining his decision to stay here.) Renn loves a well-designed city with a strong, communicable identity, and he’s been complimentary of Carmel. He wrote a lengthy, three-part analysis of the city in 2007, then revisited the subject in 2010, saying, “On the whole, I’m very impressed with what Carmel is trying to do in terms of new urbanism, pedestrian and bicycle design, and trying to build an environment with long term staying power.”
After two years, Renn's view hasn't changed. Today, he said this to the Circle Citizen: “I think Carmel is clearly more progressive than Indianapolis on a number of fronts. It has a clearer, better-articulated civic vision; superior urban design (though its architectural styling is certainly NOT progressive); and superior transportation design. But this would not be true of every area in the city. And Indy is in no danger that Carmel will somehow displace it as the cultural, intellectual, and economic hub of the region. However, the example of what happened in St. Louis with the rise of Clayton, MO, as a second hub after the separation of St. Louis city from St. Louis county should cause regional leaders to consider possible future scenarios."
In other words, Carmel makes a great neighbor. Now if only it had a gay bar.
Carmel photo via Wikipedia