Committee and community collaborate on structural ideas

By Marissa Novel

“Free Wifi” signs are already hanging in the windows of some businesses, but in the next few years one might be able to access it while walking down the strip instead of sipping coffee at Starbucks.

Wireless Internet, a hotel, and improved housing for faculty and students in the downtown area were among the many ideas professionals, committee members, and Carbondale residents discussed at the fourth Downtown Advisory Meetings Tuesday evening.

D. Gorton, a DAC member, said he recommends making the city a “Gigabit City,” or a community with access to ultra-high-speed, fiber based wireless Internet.


“A gigabit is a billion bits of information, it’s a torrent of data,” he said.

Steve Mitchell, an alumnus and Internet technology representative from Man-Tra-Con-Corp and Connect SI, said many communities have acquired grants to fund these types of projects, and Carbondale can do the same.

“Carbondale is very unique in the fact that it has a lot of fiber access, especially commercial class highly available power reliable fiber based connectivity,” he said.

James Mayer, an alumnus and CEO of Mayer Networks, said his company will assist in building a Gigabit City free of charge, in order to help kick start the revitalization process.

“We’ve basically offered up our abilities,” he said. “We can actually come in, design, lay out, give suggestions on how the wireless network should be built, why it should be built in certain ways, even going all the way down to choosing the specific hardware and configurations,” he said.

New housing and renovations of the old, was also discussed at the meeting.

Rex Buddle, the President and CEO of Southern Illinois Healthcare, said specialized cardiovascular, cancer and stroke care services among others at Memorial Hospital in Carbondale are all growing in size, therefore attracting more patients who will need temporary housing in the future.


“I see there being a lot of opportunity as we grow and we embrace this level of complexity with the services we provide and a great need for more people to interact with the community, not just going in and going out,” he said.

City Manager Kevin Baity said the design for a downtown hotel was in the 1990 downtown plan, but was never completed because its developer abandoned the project.

He said the city funded a hotel feasibility study that found there is a need for a 70 to 80 room hotel downtown, and the addition would help students studying hospitality receive hands-on experience.

Stacey Sloboda, a Carbondale resident, said the city needs temporary faculty housing. She said the condition of the existing housing in the downtown area is being ignored.

“It’s a place that houses huge numbers of students and I feel like it’s been abandoned by the university,” Sloboda said. “The university doesn’t want to pay attention to how students are behaving there and how students are being treated there.”

Many other community members voiced their opinions about increasing and enforcing upkeep regulations on landlords and green pathways connecting businesses and neighborhoods.

President Randy Dunn said one major theme in energizing the downtown is to bring university presence into the city.

“Whatever happens needs to pull the university down into the city. We need to climb right down that hill and integrate with the downtown area,” he said.

Delio Calzolari, associate director for the Paul Simon Institute, said an alumni survey was created to gather opinions on the state of the downtown area in the past. He said the projected date for the release of the results is Nov. 1.

Jack Langowski, the chair of the DAC, said the results will be discussed at the meeting on Nov. 12.

The next meeting, concerning signage and streetscapes, will be at 6:30p.m. Oct. 15 at the Eurma Hayes Center at 441 east Willow St.

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