Carbondale Advisory Committee Discussing New Master Plan

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By Amy Fox
By Benjy Jeffords

CARBONDALE --  Work's now underway to develop a new master plan for downtown Carbondale. A special advisory committee met Wednesday night for the first time. The group will focus on the corridor along Illinois and University Avenues from the SIU campus north to Willow Street.

City officials, business owners, and community members are on the advisory committee. They're trying to lay out a new vision for the center of Carbondale. The current master plan is more than 20 years old. Many feel it's time for change.

It's a vibrant atmosphere. People make their way through downtown Carbondale.  As construction continues on the new apartment and retail development at the site of the old 710 bookstore.

But, things haven't always been that way. Justin Zurlinden, owner of Vintage Soul, opened his doors three years ago.

"When we came in here, there were a lot of vacancies in this strip, now there aren't. There's been some businesses that have come and gone, but we're excited about the new developments. We're hoping it will bring a lot of people downtown to stay downtown," said Zurlinden.

As the local economy starts to come back to life after the recession, the Downtown Advisory Committee is looking to the future

Committee Chair Jack Langowski said, "We're certainly not trying to change things just for the sake of changing them. But, there are improvements that can be made that will align itself with how the culture has progressed."

Businesses are hoping a new plan will help fix some of the problems that hurt downtown commerce.

Zurlinden said, "If we're ever wanting to have walk-in traffic, there's got to be parking for everyone to come down and to walk around. And, right now, there's just not. So, hopefully, we can figure out how to fix that."

"I think the downtown should be the heart of the city and fill it with as many local businesses as possible. It's going to be good for the community and the university and the local economy," said Derek Conley, Attitude Designs Production Manager.

Throughout the course of the next several months, the Downtown Advisory Committee with seek community input as it develops a plan. But, it won't happen overnight.

"We don't want to rush things, but we want to keep this on a steady pace," said Langowski.

While this is only a start, many are excited about what the future could hold.

Zurlinden said, "There are all kinds of things to do downtown. If we could figure out how to get people downtown and stay downtown that would be great."

This is the first of eight planned meetings. Transportation will be the next topic at the meeting on September 3. The committee will update the Carbondale City Council on its progress every month.

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