Carbondale competes for grant to boost business downtown - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Carbondale competes for grant to boost business downtown

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CARBONDALE -- Carbondale is competing for what could be millions of dollars in private grants to help redevelop downtown.

City leaders unveiled a plan Thursday evening that was six months in the making. 

City officials have put together what they call a "playbook" of development proposals to improve downtown. Several big communications companies who are sponsoring the America's Best Communities grant, will take a look at this and decide whether or not to fund the ideas.

Carbondale is one of 15 communities selected to apply.

"I think Carbondale is absolutely poised to make a seismic shift," said Elaine Ramseyer.

Ramseyer has managed Longbranch Café and Bakery in downtown Carbondale for 18 years. She credits the latest push for development to a new, more progressive city council.

"The new people are great. There's new momentum there's fresh energy," Ramseyer said.

The America's Best Communities grant competition spans nationwide. Communities are selected to compete based on need and probability of success.

"It could be huge. It could be huge. It would help them implement the playbook, help the city implement the downtown master plan," sad Steve Mitchell, who works with Connect SI and helped develop the plan.

Specific ideas in the playbook include free wireless internet downtown, community working sites where people can share ideas and a downtown hostel for travelers.

"Carbondale has a huge number of assets and also a lot of need to, because this was also based on need," Mitchell said.

The plan proposes beefing up the art scene downtown and making the area more walkable.

"It focuses on the look and feel downtown, making it more friendly, comfortable and livable," Mitchell said.

There's been major improvement already in the area near Longbranch in the town square, Ramseyer said.

"Our corner is really happening here. I want to take what we've done and do it all the way down the strip," Ramseyer said.

This grant makes up one part of an overall downtown master plan the city has worked on about a year now.

Many local leaders argue Carbondale has several assets, such as Southern Illinois University and Carbondale Memorial Hospital, that make downtown investment worthwhile for the future.

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