Petition in Support of Carmel Carousel and Luxury Hotel
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As a resident of Carmel, I appreciate what Mayor Brainard and the City Council have done to make our city world-class while keeping our taxes some of the lowest in the state. As part of that vision, Mayor Brainard has laid the plans to bring a luxury hotel to City Center and to bring an antique, hand-carved carousel to our central core. This petition seeks to give voice to Mayor Brainard's supporters.
The luxury hotel and antique carousel will be paid for without the need for any additional taxes. Carmel property taxes are very low, and only about 8% are used to pay the debt, which is carefully scheduled to be paid off in an orderly fashion. What few from outside Carmel understand is that, as the City has grown and made decisions to invest in quality of life, property rates have declined. Specifically, when considering inflation, property taxes have declined by about half during Mayor Brainard's administration. Carmel residents currently pay the 4th lowest property tax rate the state.
Just as Indianapolis recognized it is important to invest in quality hotels such as the JW Marriott and Conrad (Indy contributed $85m to those projects), Carmel recognizes that a Marriott Autograph Collection luxury hotel will be a game-changer for the City. Some of our neighbors have asked, "why not let the market / private developer build a hotel instead?" All sides agree that a private developer would see a return on investment, but not enough to appease its bankers and silent investors. A private developer does not care about the multiplier effect from such a landmark hotel - more patrons for neighboring businesses, more businesses to serve the extra foot traffic nearby, more corporations locating in the central core, an iconic structure for the City, and more tourists from outside Carmel - but we as a community and as a City do.
Carmel's 125-plus corporate headquarters, who along with other businesses pay taxes that cover 40% of Carmel services, have asked for this. Further, Westfield's Grand Park accounted for 600k hotel room nights in 2016, and the addition of a Marriott Autograph gives Carmel a further advantage in capturing that visitor spending. Carmel will be part owner of the hotel and receive revenue (including 100% of all revenue for the first 10 years) and property taxes.
The hotel would be connected to City Center, have 120 rooms, about 3,200 square feet of meeting space, a restaurant and bar, and a patio overlooking the central green, the ice skating rink, and the reflecting pool. It would be an amazing place for visitors to stay and our neighbors to gather.
I urge the City Council to vote in favor of the luxury hotel.
The Mayor's vision is to create a sense of place in Carmel, and the Palladium, the Arts and Design District, the coming Christkindlmarket, the ice rink, the Monon (and its recent transformation), and even the proposed Luxury Hotel all build on each other to make Carmel a tourist destination and a place people want to live and work. All cities invest in amenities, to varying degrees of success, but Mayor Brainard has a track record of making the right bets. The Carousel is an extension of that, and you can imagine a tourist family spending a weekend in Carmel, with a trip to the carousel on the list.
In standard Carmel fashion, an expert stated that the 1907 Dentzel Company-built large park carousel with 52 hand-carved animals is "without question, one of the finest carousels that has ever been created, a national treasure that would compare favorably with any carousel in the United States and maybe would compare with the top two or three percent in the world.” (see http://currentincarmel.com/expert-carmels-potential-carouse) The carousel will be enclosed and open year-round, with volunteers already proposing a non-profit to run it.
At the original proposed $5m for the carousel and all-season building with meeting space, it is the cost of a park (for comparison, a one mile stretch of road costs $10m). The proposal was going to be paid for out of local income tax without the need to raise it. It's also a great idea to leverage corporate and private donations for the carousel, including involving arts and historical preservation groups, to gather the community around a public-private partnership (though it's worth noting as example that Indy first built the Colts stadium and then secured $120m for the Lucas Oil naming rights).
Ultimately, this is a $5m investment in economic development. Would a CEO, who is considering moving his young family or even his company to the suburbs, want to be across the street from a corn field or from unique amenities like the carousel/ice rink/monon/etc.? Mayor Brainard has made a bet on the latter, and our 125-plus corporate headquarters, 4th lowest tax rate in the state, and a torrent of "best ____ in the nation" awards are the results.
I urge the City Council to vote in favor of the antique carousel.
-A word about me-
I am a resident of Carmel and I support Mayor Brainard's vision. I am an appointee to the Carmel Redevelopment Commission, but these are my own views. If anything, my role on the CRC and my profession as a real estate and finance attorney help me better understand the intricacies of city planning, economic development, and public-private partnerships. The passion that led me to start this petition is the same that motivates me to volunteer countless hours on the CRC - I live here with my family and want to see my city grow and prosper. I am not a city employee or contractor and I have no pecuniary interest in the Hotel or Carousel. In fact, in the single instance during my time on the CRC when my law firm represented a client that interacted with the CRC, I put controls in place to be walled-off from all communication related to the matter at both the firm and the CRC and abstained from all related votes.
Carmel's competition is other world-class cities. Please support the vision of the Mayor and Council as they continue that legacy.
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