Monon Boulevard and Midtown Plaza Phases 1 and 2
Landscape Performance Benefits
- Improves soil health, with 3 times the amount of organic matter (8.4% organic matter) as compared to an adjacent area resembling pre-construction conditions (2.8% organic matter). Monon Boulevard's soils are 10% less alkaline, or generally more favorable to plant growth, than the adjacent area.
- Supports improved tree growth, with trees in a modular suspended pavement system on Monon Boulevard growing 32-35% more annually in comparison to nearby trees in similar conditions without a modular suspended pavement system.
- Reduces peak stormwater runoff rates by up to 58% and 72% respectively for 10-year and 100-year, 24-hour storm events. An estimated 133,044 gallons of rainfall are intercepted annually in 334 newly planted trees, totaling an estimated 2.5 million gallons over the next 10 years.
- Lowers surface temperature by an estimated weighted average of 3 to 8.9°F compared to an adjacent area resembling pre-construction conditions.
- Projected to save 142,752 kWh of energy consumption for the surrounding buildings over 20 years due to shade provided by trees.
- Sequesters an estimated 289,076 lbs of atmospheric carbon dioxide annually in 344 newly planted trees.
- Increases trail use by pedestrians, joggers, and cyclists by 118%, from an average of 341,574 people per year in the 3-year period before redevelopment (2014-2016) to 742,830 after (2020-2022).
- Supports increased visitor numbers in amenity-rich areas and attendance at community events. The mixed-use development area attracts 125% more walkers than other areas of the trail, and over 27,500 residents and visitors attended 124 programmed events at Midtown Plaza in 2021.
- Promotes place attachment, with 81% of 42 surveyed Carmel residents agreeing that the site strengthens place identity, 74% agreeing that it strengthens natural bonding, and 69% agreeing that it enhances family and friend bonding.
- Supports a variety of age groups, with 100% of 42 surveyed site users agreeing that the site is friendly to a variety of age groups. This is supported by systematic site observation and social media postings.
- Promotes physical health, with 71% of 42 surveyed site users agreeing that they have spent more time outdoors after Monon Boulevard and Midtown Plaza was constructed.
- Improves walking safety, with 88% of 42 surveyed site users agreeing that the construction of Monon Boulevard and Midtown Plaza has made the pedestrian experience safer.
- Enhances visual quality, with 93% of 42 surveyed site users agreeing that art and the renovation have enhanced the visual quality of the former greenway trail.
- Contributed to an estimated 26% higher assessed value of residences within a quarter mile of the trail within 3 years of project completion when compared to other residences further along the trail.
- Increases gross customer visitation after project completion according to all 5 interviewed businesses within 2 blocks of the trail, with 1 business estimating a 20% increase in sales.
- Increased revenues by an estimated 66% for Tax Increment Funding (TIF) districts directly adjacent to Midtown Plaza from 2020-2021.
- Catalyzed an estimated $167 million in private investment in the Midtown Plaza area.
At a Glance
Rundell Ernstberger Associates
Former Land Use
351 Monon Boulevard
Carmel, Indiana 46032
Monon Boulevard and Midtown Plaza are located in the Midtown District of Carmel, Indiana. Once an industrial backwater with a simple greenway trail passing through it, the reimagined boulevard transformed an uninviting zone into a live-work-play urban district with multimodal connectivity. The resilient landscape features native plantings, hundreds of trees to expand the urban tree canopy, dedicated sidewalks and local bike lanes, and a series of best management practices including permeable pavers. A range of amenities create opportunities for recreation, play, and relaxation and promote healthy living and outdoor activity for the new adjacent residential and retail spaces. Not only does the boulevard encourage people to stop and interact with the varied programs and surrounding shops and restaurants to promote economic growth, but it also serves as a functional corridor for transportation. With wider walking paths, accessible parking, and designated cycle tracks, the pedestrian experience is enhanced to be pleasurable and safe.
- Implement green infrastructure techniques to retain stormwater on-site.
- Increase urban tree canopy to offer shade and mitigate heat island effect in the summer.
- Create an identifiable district that connects Carmel’s Arts and Design District with the City Center District.
- Improve pedestrian and bicycle safety by creating a complete street network.
- Create an array of passive and active programs and inclusive destinations for all seasons that engage users from a diverse mix of ages and abilities.
- Support adjacent economic development (increased occupancy rates and purchase rates, increased sales in nearby commercial stores and restaurants) through recreational elements and programming.
- A former modest 12-ft-wide asphalt path with a 66-ft right of way was replaced with a 54-ft green median and 140-ft right of way multi-modal boulevard covering the length of 6 city blocks.
- Midtown Plaza is a brick plaza and large flexible space with the infrastructure to support a range of social gatherings like live performances and outdoor movies. An array of amenities activate the space throughout the year, including ping-pong tables, cornhole, bench swings, spinning chairs, shade structures, and movable seating elements.
- 1.06 acres (45,173 sf) of permeable pavement for roads and curbside parking help infiltrate stormwater on-site. A 380,000-gallon water storage tank located below Midtown Plaza captures stormwater from the plaza and beyond.
- 325 trees were planted on site, of which 54% are native including red oak (Quercus rubra), common hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), American hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana), and tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera).
- 140 of the trees were planted in a modular suspended pavement system with 1,789 cu yds of structural soil and 2,064 cu yds of planting soil.
- The boulevard includes a wide median with separate, dedicated paths for bicyclists and pedestrians that meander through diverse gathering spaces, plazas, and activity zones.
- A 2,000-ft-long designated cycle track was implemented to provide a safe and easy riding experience for cyclists and a safer walking experience for pedestrians.
- The 10-ft-wide low-speed vehicular lanes increase safety and enhance connectivity for pedestrians while providing 72 curbside parking spots.
- Activity zones provide play opportunities for all ages and abilities and include a destination playscape, bocce ball court, shuffleboard court, game tables, and a spray plaza. The passive zones include small plazas and green spaces, interactive public art, community tables, and benches.
Working on a project with a public entity required coordination across several departments. The Carmel Redevelopment Commission (CRC) led the design process, but input was needed from several other stakeholders. The design team collaborated with the City Forester, working together to achieve common goals for the urban forest. The City Streets Department was responsible for all maintenance of the boulevard (road) and public space between the buildings and boulevard after installation, so understanding their capabilities and concerns was important. The Carmel Clay Parks Department was responsible for the maintenance of the boulevard median and Midtown Plaza after installation, so working closely with them was also important. Coordination with the City of Carmel Community Relations and Economic Development was necessary to understand how the spaces would be used and how many people to accommodate. There was also extensive correspondence with the City Communications Department to make sure the design accommodated security cameras and Wi-Fi to meet the City’s needs. Initiating coordination with all these key stakeholders early in the design process requires additional effort but saves time in the long run and adds significant value to the project.
Monon Boulevard and Midtown Plaza sit within the City of Carmel Arts District, so there was a focus on incorporating art in both literal and abstract ways. The original budget for the project carried a $250,000 line item for art. Several pieces were purchased or commissioned as part of the budget, including a large bike sculpture at the north end of the boulevard and an interactive and monumental piece with color-changing LED lights in the Arts Plaza. The client and design team expanded on these ideas and came up with other ways to incorporate art into the project. Some of these items may have cost more than their traditional counterparts but added to the character and identity of the new corridor. An accent bench shaped in the letters of the “MONON” highlights the intersection of the boulevard with Midtown Plaza. This bench added $45,000 to the project but created an iconic element specific to the site. Another distinctive element is the climber located in the play area. The $300,000 piece is not only a fun play piece that fits in the narrow footprint of the median; it is also an artistic element that provides a unique play experience for visitors. Other unique design elements include the use of specialty bike racks in the shape of oversized bikes, custom art applications on the ping pong tables, staggered video panels to create a unique outdoor screen, and specialty benches to create varied experiences along different parts of the corridor.
- Coordinating work along the right-of-way was especially complex along Monon Boulevard and at Midtown Plaza. The area changed from a rail-trail corridor flanked by mostly industrial uses and a few townhomes to the backbone of the new Midtown District in just a few years. The development of the boulevard created new right-of-way conditions and required extensive coordination with new developments that were happening as the project was under construction. It was critical that the City of Carmel was committed to the design and layout of the boulevard-linear park and willing to insist that developers work with the design team to make sure the spaces aligned and met the design goals. Direct and early communication with adjacent property owners is important in a project with rapidly occurring adjacent development.
- The project represented a significant investment by the City, so having an early groundbreaking and showcasing completed areas of the boulevard was a high priority to show progress, maintain excitement for the project, and initiate other investment along the corridor. The project was split into multiple phases to ensure construction could start as soon as possible and areas could be finished and available for use. Dividing the project into phases also added some complications. The phasing required extra plans for Maintenance of Traffic (how traffic is managed during construction) to accommodate local businesses and the existing Monon Trail. The project phasing also limited options during value engineering exercises done in the middle of the design as some changes were no longer options if materials had already been installed in earlier phases or concepts and product selection were already shared with residents. Significant effort needs to be made to educate clients and users of benefits and challenges related to dividing a large project into multiple phases.
- Monon Boulevard and Midtown Plaza utilized high-quality materials throughout, including granite curbs, granite pavers, and clay pavers. There were also some custom elements such as platform benches, a video screen wall, and playscape elements which required extra coordination and communication with fabricators. These items had extra lead times, and early procurement packages were initiated to ensure the products were available when the contractor was ready. Specialty products and features require additional planning to make sure the materials are available and diligent construction administration is needed to make sure foundations and base materials are installed correctly.
- There is immense value in involving landscape architects in construction administration, regardless of the size of the project. It is especially valuable in projects with complex phasing, specialty materials, unique features, and a lot of custom detailing. A few challenges occurred during the project that threatened its implementation, requiring the diligence of the construction administration team. The sequencing of construction left finished areas vulnerable to damage from construction traffic from the site and nearby developing properties, as well as regular traffic and pedestrian use. Even with protection plans in place, there was damage to paver intersections, contamination of the base stone and jointing stone in the permeable paver cross sections, and broken granite curbs. These all needed to be fixed before the project was accepted. Landscape architects have an important role in helping clients understand the value of involving landscape architects in construction administration.
Clay Pavers: Whitacre-Greer
Granite Pavers: Architectural Specialties Ltd.
Asphalt Pavers: Hanover Architectural Products
Granite Curbs: Architectural Specialties Ltd.
Limestone Benches: Indiana Limestone Fabricators, Inc.
Decomposed Granite: Kafka Granite, LLC
Lounge Furniture: MamaGreen,
Spin Chairs: Herman Miller
Lounge Chairs: Landscape Forms
Wooden Benches: Landscape Forms
Tall Wooden Benches: mmcité
Custom Platform Benches and Seatwalls: Landscape Forms Studio 431
Custom Concrete Letter Benches: MD3 Contract Ltd.
Custom Tree Grates: Bo-Mar Industries
Bike Racks: Madrax
Bike Fix Station: Bike Fixation
Bike/Pedestrian Counter: Eco Counter
Shade Umbrellas: Tuuci
Litter and Recycle Receptacle: Forms + Surfaces
Planters: Tournesol Siteworks
Water Bollard: Hess
Water Fountain: Most Dependable Fountains, Inc.
Louvered Fence: PalmShield
Custom Shade Structures with Swings: Landscape Forms Studio 431
Custom Decorative Wall Panels and Lettering: Bo-mar Industries
Custom LED Video Wall: Neoti with Video Wall Structure by Smock Fansler Corporation
Custom Fire Pit: Smock Fanlser Corporation with granite by Architectural Specialties Ltd and burner system by Hearth Product Controls
Custom Play Structure: Luckey LLC
Precast Slide: UPC Parks
Play Panels: Landscape Structures
Custom Grotto: Smock Fansler Corporation
Climbing Holds: Atomik Climbing Holds
Poured-in-Place Surfacing: Kinetic Play Surfaces
Artificial Turf: ForeverLawn
Ping Pong Table: BoMar Industries
Billiards Table: Gameroom Concepts Unlimited
Custom Bocce and Shuffleboard Score Keepers: Smock Fansler Corporation
Post Lights: Hess
Post, Wall, and Bollard Lights: Bega
Post Lights: Spring City Electrical Mfg. Co.
Uplights: Kim Lighting
Tape Lighting: Klus, LLC
Ground Boxes and Charging Stations: Legrand
Power Pedestals: PEDOC Power Solutions, LLC
Custom Bike Trail and Wayfinding Signage: ASI Signs Systems, Inc.
Plant Material: Bluegrass Farms, Kankakee Nursery, Brehob Nursery, Brown Nursery
Suspended Pavement System: DeepRoot Urban Solutions, Lt.,
CU Structural Soil and Amended Planting Soil: Greendell Landscape Solutions Cell System
Lead Design Firm: Rundell Ernstberger Associates
Lead Civil Engineering: CrossRoad Engineers
Engineering: V3 Companies (formerly Williams Creek)
Structural Engineering: Lynch Harrison Brumleve (LHB)
Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing (MEP): The Engineering Collaborative
Environmental Graphics: RLR Associates
Irrigation: Hines, Inc.
Fountain Design: Delta Fountains
A/V Design: CCS Presentation Systems
Role of the Landscape Architect
The team of landscape architects was responsible for all design aspects of the project, including site analysis, community engagement, site design, planting design, grading, pavement selection, material selection, construction documentation, and advising on architectural design. They worked closely with the client and local contractors to lead design coordination and communication.