Committee evaluates realistic options

By Marissa Novel

Fresh ideas for downtown Carbondale are budding, but the Downtown Advisory Committee believes it will take financial, public and community responsibility to see these plans through.

The Downtown Advisory Committee had its seventh of eight meetings to discuss economic, civic and neighborhood viability at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Carbondale Community High School.

Charles Leonard, a political scientist and visiting professor for the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, began the meeting with results from an Internet opt-in survey completed by 4,300 alumni about the downtown area.


“Ninety percent of alumns recommend SIU as a place to go to school,” he said. “Fifty percent would recommend SIU as a place to visit. About 25 percent would recommend Carbondale as a place to live. So your work is cut out for you.”

Leonard said alumni were also interested in more restaurants, local businesses, walk and bike paths. He said alumni said the city is a poor option for entrepreneurs and post-college job opportunities.

Jack Langowski, the chairman of the committee, said the requests of the alumni are reflected by the ideas from the committee and community members.

“The survey verifies many observations we’ve been making across the last seven months,” he said. “Many of the things he pointed out are really verifications of what we have said or heard from the public.”

Langowski also discussed the economic viability of the ideas for downtown. He said the Liquor Advisory Board is in the process of letting sidewalk cafes allow liquor consumption outdoors.

“There are places in the downtown that we could put up a sidewalk cafe tomorrow morning,” he said. “But there are issues associated with sidewalk cafes; how we move through them and make them accessible for disabled community.”

Langowski said the board is still in the beginning process of considering liquor to be served outdoors.


“It’s under consideration,” he said. “That’s a big step forward. … They would have never brought it up had it not been for us pushing it forward, so we’re making some progress.”

Elaine Ramseyer, a committee member, said many areas downtown have changed in the past, including Illinois Avenue, the Varsity Center for the Arts and Holden Hospital, which is now Old National Bank.

She said some of the aspects of the past, such as trees and green space, should be considered in downtown renovations.

Mayor Don Monty said the addition of trees could be problematic for the city and business owners.

“Everybody wants to line the streets with trees,” he said. “I can’t tell you how many times business owners who come to City Hall demand the trees be cut down. Why? Because you can’t see their signs.”

Monty said community members need to take civic responsibility into their own hands.

“Far too often in this community the public looks to the city to do everything,” he said. “But the city doesn’t have the money to do everything, and I think as a community, our members have to be willing to step up to the plate and do things.”

The final Downtown Advisory Committee meeting of the year concerning any subjects that were missed during previous discussions will be at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall on Dec. 3.

Students from an advanced architecture course will present their project on revitalizing downtown Carbondale before the meeting from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Marissa Novel can be reached at [email protected], on Twitter @marissanovelDE or at 536-3311 ext. 268.