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,”