May 19, 2022

Charlie Doodle

Unique Art & Entertainment

Carbondale to seek $2 million grant to build new entertainment venue | Carbondale

3 min read

City leaders are eyeing state grant dollars to build an entertainment and event plaza as part of a larger effort to bring new traffic and investments to the downtown area. Pictured above is a design sketch of what the plaza may wind up looking like. 

CARBONDALE — The City Council approved a resolution Thursday night giving City Manager Gary Williams the authority to apply for a grant to build a new entertainment venue on Washington Street.

Williams has until a Jan. 10 deadline to submit the application to the Rebuild Downtowns & Main Streets Capital Grant Program provided by Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO).

In September, the Illinois DCEO announced that $45 million would be made available to fund the Rebuild Downtowns & Main Streets Capital Grant Program to provide grants of up to $3 million to support improvements and encourage investment in commercial corridors and downtowns that have experienced disinvestment, particularly in communities that have been hardest hit by the COVID-19 public health and economic crisis.

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The city is seeking a grant to fund an entertainment and event plaza on city-owned property on the 100 to 200 block of South Washington Street. This area has had a number of events over the past several years and has been popular with concert-goers.

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The area is situated in the heart of Carbondale’s new downtown arts and entertainment district, and has the potential to continue drawing thousands of visitors from across Southern Illinois and beyond.

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The total cost of the project is estimated to be $2,568,800. The city will request $2,055,040 of funding through the grant program, which provides 80% of the total costs. The city of Carbondale will be responsible for $513,760, the other 20%.

There was little discussion during Thursday’s 14-minute special council meeting, with the resolution being the only item on the agenda.

Commissioner Lee Fronabarger asked what the capacity of the venue would be. The occupant load of the venue will be 6,000, but can be more if needed, according to the city.

Commissioner Ginger Rye-Sanders expressed concerns about who would be building the venue. She said the city will use union contractors but hopes some positions will be open to local residents as apprentices or in some other capacity during the project.

Economic Development Director Steve Mitchell did not have a date that grants would be awarded, but he expects it to be completed in 30 to 90 days.

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“Is this all or nothing or can DCEO drop the funding?” Fronabarger asked.

Mitchell said the city’s grant is below the $3 million cap, so they do not expect any decrease.

Commissioner Carolin Harvey made the motion to approve the resolution. Commissioner Jeff Doherty seconded her motion. All seven members of the board voted in favor of the motion.

During the council comments, Harvey spoke about the anniversary of the insurrection on the Capitol in Washington, D.C. She said she hopes our country will never be that position again.

“We as citizens must do all we can to protect our democratic processes and to do all we can is to vote,” Harvey said.

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The council’s next regular meeting will be at 6 p.m. Jan. 11.

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