Retailers dig in with city’s new commercial ventures

By Gus Bode

Houlihan’s, Kohl’s, motel chains on the way; East edge of town sees most development

Carbondale City Manager Jeff Doherty believes the explosion of the local and national retailers scurrying to the city should continue, with the city seeing significant increases in its returns from sales tax.

Acting as the hub of the region, Carbondale has been sought out by numerous businesses since the mid-1990s, in part, because of the potential from the diverse needs of the city’s citizens. And the successes of the businesses such as Barnes and Noble and Best Buy, both of which own franchises in Carbondale, have only solidified the theory.

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“People come to Carbondale for practical needs, for professional services,” Doherty said. “… [And] the University and student population is here. So why not take advantage of such a broad need? People know in this region, the most shopping opportunity is here.”

The city recorded a rise in sales tax returns in the neighborhood of 4-5 percent from the previous year, which is consistent of what the increase was the previous fiscal year. All returns go to the city’s general fund, according to Mayor Brad Cole.

With the constant wall-to-wall business at the new Panera Bread Company and the development of two hotels and a Houlihan’s restaurant at the corner of Reed Station Road and Illinois Route 13, the surge in business development has been steady since the start of the year. The city also announced the addition of a 90,000-square-foot Kohl’s department store, which will be near Kroger on Giant City Road.

The Houlihan’s restaurant is slated to open sometime in October and the construction on the two hotels – Comfort Inn and Holiday Inn – is set to begin sometime this summer.

” There is definitely a need for nice restaurants in Carbondale,” said Trace Brown, a partner in Charlie Brown and Associates, the group that is developing area near Reed Station Road. “[The development] will bring a lot of people into town and will increase the city’s tax base. So far, we have had tremendous support from people and have received inquiries about jobs and when they can book rooms.”

The vacant area in between Giant City and Reed Station roads along Illinois Route 13 is a location Doherty envisions as an economic hotbed, with it being visible to those entering Carbondale from the east.

“Obviously, all the available frontage on Route 13 is viable land,” Doherty said. “I think that has been the case during the past 20 years. It is not a recent phenomenon. … The only part we can’t touch is the Crab Orchard National Refuge.”

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The vacant area where American Tap was demolished has received some inquiries from developers, according to Doherty, and he said he fully believes that a buyer will be located.

With numerous businesses flourishing across the city, the anchor for city business remains the University Mall. In the past few years, the mall has added well-known national retailers such as Hollister, Old Navy, Gap and Bed Bath & Beyond.

“People come to Carbondale,” Doherty said. “I really see no reason why the business growth won’t continue. … This is a very exciting time.”

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