Community shares downtown suggestions

By Marissa Novel

Downtown Carbondale is in the first stages of a face-lift.

More than 100 community members gathered at Carbondale City Hall Wednesday to attend the first of eight discussions on the renovation of the city’s downtown area put on by the Downtown Advisory Committee, a group of 17 appointed and self-volunteered business owners, city officials and community members.

Jack Langowski, chair of the DAC, repeatedly emphasized the importance of community participation in the planning of renovations.


“Say what you want,” Langowski said. “Be comfortable with your idea because it may very well be the one we go with.”

Langowski said meetings will be conducted under the Open Meetings Act, and will focus on six main areas of interest, each facilitated by subcommittees of the DAC.

The areas include transportation, signage and streetscapes, business development, interfaces of the hospital, campus and surrounding residential areas, arts and entertainment and economic and civic viability.

The committee will first assess transportation, which includes parking and the flow of pedestrian, bicycle and automobile traffic, and the aesthetics of streets and street signs.

Accessibility from residential areas to the hospital and campus will be evaluated, along with safety levels for pedestrians while traveling to and from. Public safety will also be assessed in all areas of downtown.

Numerous community members voiced their ideas for downtown in the last half of the meeting. Topics such as parking and spaces for outdoor recreation were heavily discussed.

City Manager Kevin Baity presented architectural solutions from several university towns, with an emphasis on Normal and Kent, Ohio. He said the two towns have persevered from the fiscal and enrollment issues SIU is currently experiencing.


Ezra Brabham, a freshman from Long Island, N.Y., said the downtown area should have more room for outdoor recreation.

“The main area over there is not really set up for a park, or barbeques or community functions,” Brabham said. “It seems like it’s just a place for the alcoholics to chill.”

Stacy Calvert, an alumna from Niles, said she has seen a big change in community attraction to the downtown area since she graduated in 1996.

“Downtown was where it was at,” Calvert said. “It was vital. It was vibrant, it was everything.”

Calvert said when she returned to Carbondale four years ago, the area was not what it used to be. She said she wants to see the addition of more local businesses in the future.

Currently, the DAC does not have a budget for any future projects.

Langowski said the committee should consider applying for grants.

He said Baity referenced a community that received a multimodal transportation complex through the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recover, or TIGER Discretionary Grant Program.

“Why couldn’t we acquire one of those grants as well?” Langowski said. “We certainly need it.”

At the meeting, Meghan Cole, the director of Carbondale Main Street, was appointed as vice president of the committee, and Marie Bukowski was designated as the committee secretary.

The next meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 3 at Carbondale Main Street, where the committee will discuss transportation.

The schedule of meetings and assigned topics can be found at All ideas can be sent to [email protected].