Saturday, January 21, 2012

Downtown as Tourist Destination

The more I look at downtown Carbondale, the less I see it as a viable place as a tourist destination (Not that I've heard much talk about trying to position it as such).  Save for the area right around the square, the rest of the central business district is flat, the result of decades of replacing multistory buildings with single story ones or even worse, nothing.  There's little photogenic about the downtown area once you move off the square and even the square itself doesn't project a vibe of "Come, linger here. Stroll around and admire my quaint buildings, my charming shops, my landscaping."

Downtown Carbondale works fine as a central business district, even an entertainment district, but it's just not attractive enough to pull tourists into the area and keep them there.  If the town wants to go this route, and I'm not sure it should, it needs a ten or fifteen year plan in order to get there.

What I would like to see happen, and that could happen within a shorter time frame, is re-position Carbondale as the Gateway to the Illinois Wine Country or the Entrance to the Shawnee.  Either (or both) could happen,with focus from the community, within 3 to 4 years,without the major re-development it would take to make Carbondale itself the destination.


  1. Definitely agree with your observations and assessment. The Comp Plan that was completed a few short years ago provided a few strategies to consider to enhance the appearance and image of downtown Carbondale

  2. How exactly could the city do this? They don't own the buildings (at least, before the buildings are wrecked) and never will. You can't legislate charm. You certainly can't legislate charm, when you are stuck between the tracks, a state road and no parking. Isn't your first move to reroute 51 around downtown, if you really wanted to do this? Granted, it is so much easier to start a little restaurant, winery or other service business and pray that someone sprinkles magic tourist dust over your city, and you magically get unearned business in your doors. But, that is just a dream, isn't it?

    I have developed little understanding about the idea that Southern Illinois is going to become a tourist destination. You know, it is really hot in the summer? I hope it happens, but my belief is that economic development would be better served by building a factory or two.

    Maybe, the hope is that a tourist business would drive total service spending up a little, say 5% of the total, and the owners of service business would have that fall to the bottom line. That would be a good dream to come true. No new jobs, just profit for business owners. Kind of like Wall Street? :)

  3. Carbondale certainly could be a tourist destination, with the outdoor recreation available in the area, however it would take work and time.

    I agree factories would add more money to the economy more quickly, but if I was a business and compared Carbondale and Marion, Marion would win, because of the transportation access provided by the interstate.

  4. When you start to think about how long it takes to get to Southern Illinois from anywhere that has a real population, I think tourism is a long shot. Maybe helpful, but a long shot to get big. Do you want to go to Branson or Southern Illinois from St. Louis? How long is the drive from Chicago? 5+ hours? For costs, start to play the $1 per mile game, vs. airfare to traditional tourism locations.

    It would be easier to start a factory that employed 1000 people in Carbondale, than make tourism the second biggest industry in SI. For example, who is the CEO for Tourism and aren't they a fool and/or a politician?

    If you are thinking that helping start factories is beyond you, think about how much easier that is than tourism.