December 03, 2014

Students gather ideas for downtown Carbondale

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale students have been gathering views of local residents on visions for redeveloping Carbondale’s downtown area. 

A film crew of students in the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts participated in an “Imagining Geographies” and “Civic Communication Collective” project titled, “Citizens Speak.” The students asked more than 80 Carbondale residents what they believe the vision should be that guides the redevelopment of downtown. 

The Downtown Advisory Committee meets today (Wednesday, Dec. 3) at 6:30 p.m. at city hall. The committee has held seven meetings focused on a variety of areas, including business development, arts and entertainment, downtown traffic and transportation, and the interface of the downtown business area with the university and Southern Illinois Healthcare. 

Those interviewed ranged from high school and college students to senior citizens and they provided a variety of perspectives. Apart from people who have lived in Carbondale for many years, most interviewed were not aware of the downtown redevelopment project, but were enthusiastic to give their opinion on how the center of town could be more appealing. 

Peter Lemish, an instructor in the School of Journalism, gathered the input and grouped the respondents’ visions for redeveloping the downtown area. The downtown area should be:

  • active, vibrant, and vital
  • an arts and entertainment haven
  • beautified
  • a buy-local, entrepreneurial hub
  • a caring space
  • communal
  • green and sustainable
  • safe and secure
  • student friendly 

Those interviewed frequently suggested they would like to see more restaurants and food variety, as well as facilities for recreational activities.  Another desire is for a beautification of downtown and Illinois Avenue. Many respondents said that the downtown area needs “more greenery and open park-like spaces that could create a more inviting and friendly atmosphere.”

Doing so could bring in events and businesses that cater more to families and older community members. Changes like these would help draw a larger demographic than just college students to the downtown area on weekends, according to the responses. 

The research report of the residents’ visions of Carbondale is available in the Upcoming Events and Productions section at