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Businesses look to benefit from streetscape project

Nathan Colombo

Nathan Colombo 
Carbondale Times

The first phase of the downtown streetscape project is set to be ready in time to welcome visitors from all over the world. New street lamps cool the space with white LED lighting at night, trees and plants brighten up the days, and restaurants have stretched their sidewalk cafes to the sidewalk walls that line the streets.

Jason Buehner, owner of The Printing Plant, hopes the temporary struggle businesses faced during construction will be offset when commerce begins to pick back up.

“During the construction time it definitely hurt business because people didn’t want to come downtown because it was a big mess,” he said. “The light at the end of the tunnel is that it should be good for business, because somebody has to take the initiative to get downtown going in the right direction.”

Buehner, who recently expanded his business along South Illinois Avenue, sees this as possible catalyst for stakeholders in downtown to reinvest in their own properties.

“Hopefully this is going to be something that will influence the few properties that are owned by the business owner, might get the chip on their shoulder to clean it up,” he said. “The second wave beyond that is going to be the people renting their property. Getting the property owners to say, ‘We’re going to clean our stuff up, too.’”

Scott Throne, who owns a retail business near downtown, believes the streetscape project is of value to Carbondale.

“The streetscape, I think, is a worthwhile project. I’m glad they’re doing it during the summer when they don’t have students,” Thorne said, adding that the city took into account the development of sidewalk cafes. “From what I understand they put they walls out there so people could more easily put tables and chairs out on the sidewalks. That’s the reason for the divider.”

Andrew Waicukauski, whose family owns the iconic walk-up Dairy Queen in downtown Carbondale, says he’s happy to see the development.

“The sidewalks out here, they were due for a change. They were old. They were cracked,” he said. “Honestly, I love what they’ve done out here. The trees, the plants, everything looks wonderful. I’m hoping that it brightens up Carbondale and sheds a new light on it.”

Waicukauski says while there are a few changes that will take some getting used to, much of what people love about the old streetscape is still part of the downtown experience.

“The steps are a little bit different. The steps don’t seem quite as big so people are kind of hesitant to sit out on the steps,” Waicukauski said of the three steps immediately in front of the building, adding, “Everybody that came up Dairy Queen always loved to sit on the wall, sit on the steps. That was just kind of the thing whenever you came up to Dairy Queen. For them to still have that is wonderful.”

Waicukauski also understands the importance of an improved streetscape as visitors descend on Carbondale for the 2017 total solar eclipse.

“If we’re trying to look good for the rest of the world I think that this is a great start,”

 he said.

SIU grad creates app for the eclipse

Dustin Duncan

Dustin Duncan
Carbondale Times 

 

Cell towers may go down this weekend, but an SIU alum has developed a mobile application to help visitors and residents get around Carbondale without service. 

Jeremy Packer, founder of Packer Labs, launched the SI Eclipse app Monday.  The application was sponsored by SIU’s Research Park and it doesn’t need an Internet connect to work. 

The app, Packer says, is a useful tool for visitors that will provide information about events, businesses and services in the region. Additionally, Packer says the app will be able to communicate with visitors via push notifications, something he says he is not aware of in other tools available to visitors.

“When cellphone reception is available, which is hopefully all or most of the time, we’ll utilize the app to push notifications to visitors with general information or emergency announcements,” Packer said. “If cellphone connections fail during eclipse weekend, we won’t be able to send out notifications, but people will still be able to use the map and information provided through the offline capabilities we’ve created.”        

He said the ability to use the application without Internet service was a “no-brainer.” 

“A lot of the information we have on this app isn’t necessarily immediate. It is not going to be changing in real time,” he said. “It allows us to cache these backups of our data that allows you to access it offline.”

Packer, who operates his firm out of the Dunn-Richmond Center, says his firm created this app for free to contribute its part to the massive event that has seen global attention drawn to his Southern Illinois home.  

“We developed this app for free and we’re inviting businesses to get listed for free. It’s meaningful that we develop this app and get it into the hands of visitors so that they have all of the information they need, with or without cellphone service,” Packer said. 

Packer has been connecting with other organizations in a final push to ensure the app will see distribution to the thousands of visitors expected to in our region.

“We want to be a supplemental resource for Carbondale, SIU, and tourism throughout the region,” he said. “Each organization has their own primary tool, like carbondaleeclipse.com and southernillinoiseclipse.com. We don’t want to take away from that. We want to add to it and make sure that we take care of visitors as best we can.”

Packer plans to have more than 100 events and 300 plus local points of interests available on the app, including local businesses, medical and emergency service providers, and temporary installments such as hydration stations.

“We have essentially won a lottery in the fact that this is happening on our doorstep,” he said. “To be able to utilize the resources and the community to give our visitors a good experience and show what Carbondale means to us — that is so important. Especially, leading to this 2024 date, we want people to come back.” 

Visitors and residents have been able to download the app since Monday on Google Play or the Apple Store.  For questions about the app you can contact SI Eclipse via Facebook at Facebook.com/SIEclipse, or email them at Help@SIEclipse.com.

 

 

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