Business development groups to move to old depot

By Gus Bode

The old depot in downtown Carbondale will be buzzing with activity Monday as volunteers and organization members combine the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce, the Carbondale Business Development Corporation and Carbondale Main Street under one roof.

Main Street Program Manager Jill Bratland said she is very excited about the move. She said Main Street has been looking for a permanent home for about a year.

Sara Berkbigler, executive director of the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce, said that while the chamber had not been intending to move, they felt they should take advantage of it when the opportunity appeared.


While the groups have worked together in the past, they have never shared the same building.

“What we’ll have is all the economic development agencies under one roof,” said Tom Redmond, director of the Carbondale Department of Development Services.

The chamber and the Business Development Corporation are both currently located at Eastgate Shopping Center, and Main Street has been at 606 S. Illinois Ave. for the past three months.

Assistant City Manager Don Monty said that a few months ago the Tourism Bureau expressed interest in moving to the University Mall and that the three groups came to the city and inquired about moving in to the depot. The Tourism Bureau became the first tenant after the depot was restored in 1996.

“By being in the same place,” Monty said, “it will be a lot easier for them to work together.”

Moving into the depot will allow the groups to continue to develop a closer relationship, Bratland said. It will make it easier for them to direct prospective business owners to the group that will be best able to meet their needs.

Birkbigler said the depot was attractive to the chamber because of its location in the center of town and its proximity to Carbondale Civic Center.


The depot’s central location was also important for Main Street, Bratland said. The historic character of the depot fit well with Main Street’s efforts at historic preservation, she said.

Main Street’s focus is on business development in the downtown area while the chamber works to foster business growth in all of Carbondale and nearby areas. The Business Development Corporation also works to encourage economic development in Carbondale and is under contract with the city to manage and market some city-owned industrial property.

Main Street had occupied space in the Pricket Building on the corner of Washington and Jackson streets for about four years until June 2001, when it moved out to accommodate an expansion by the American Resources Group. During the next year, Main Street moved twice. Now, a five-year lease at the depot will provide some time to settle in, Bratland said.

The depot was built in 1903 by the Illinois Central Railroad. It was purchased by the city as part of a nine-acre tract in the town square after the city completed its Downtown Redevelopment Plan in 1990.

During the next several years, the depot was restored with a new roof, windows, doors and a sandblasting of the exterior’s pea-green paint. The depot is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The lease is held by Main Street, and it will sub-lease space to the chamber and the Business Development Corporation, Redmond said.

Bratland said there are no plans now for an opening ceremony, but once everyone gets settled in, they may have some kind of open house.

Reporter Phil Beckman can be reached at [email protected]