Wednesday, April 30, 2008

D Gorton Weighs in on Blyer Field

Bleyer Field is the former football and track fields of Carbondale Community High School. When the school closed and moved to the east side campus, the land was sold off through closed bids. That included the buildings as well as the 12 acres that constituted the athletic fields. The school buildings are not part of the present discussion. A corner of the property is just across from Hickory Lodge which is owned by the Carbondale Parks District. Hickory Lodge went through its own convulsions after the Parks Commission tried to sell it off.

The mass of the property sits just a few dozen yards from Main St. across from where Schnucks Grocery store is located. The property is now up for sale for $1.9M (Tuesday's Southern Illinoisan quoted a figure from the realtor of $1.5M) according to the realtor, though it was bought for around $175,000. Significantly, this includes several parcels that are directly on Main St and are contiguous with Bleyer Field. It is important to know that Bleyer Field is zoned R-1-8. Which means that the planning office of the City envisioned large, single family homes on the plot. Adjacent parts of it are zoned differently.

Last year Bleyer Field was named as an "enterprise zone". It follows a pattern, however, of the Carbondale School Board selling the property cheap, and then government agencies making it attractive to developers. The folks who own the property, Gelco Management of Vienna, Illinois, have lived a particularly charmed life. They allowed the property to fall into disuse and become a magnet for homeless in the ramshackle buildings on the site. Only after one of the homeless stabbed another on Main St., and the nearby community became incensed, did the City force Gelco to clean up the site. At about the same time, Gelco was cited as a polluter in their demolition of Lincoln School In Benton. In that case they were referred to the Illinois Attorney General by the EPA for their apparently criminal mishandling of asbestos.

In order to realize the highest possible profits from the site, it is logical that the owners would want the R-1-8 zoning to be changed to something commercial. How else could one ask $1,900,000 ($1.5M?) for land that was originally $175,000? I don't even want to go into the obviously inept Carbondale School Board's method of selling land. To that end I suggest that neighbors talk to Lawrence Dennis who actually questioned the school board's reasoning at the time of the sale. His tale is hair raising.

We asked Kevin Baity who is the Assistant City Manager for Economic Development to give us any information that he had. Kevin was especially forthcoming and should be commended.

However, the rumors are all over the neighborhood that Hollywood Video, which adjoins Bleyer Field, has lost its lease because the landowner wanted to sell to a developer. There is also the rumor that Mugsy McGuire's has been sold, or soon will be. Is it CVS or is it Ward Chrysler? No one knows for sure. In addition there are empty lots and abandoned fast food restaurants all along W. Main St.

I believe that the neighborhood is supportive of development as long as it is appropriate to our area. We are entering a very difficult period with the possibility of gas prices in the $5 to $7 range - a potential killer for regional shopping centers. Development on the West Side should be done carefully to avoid the mistakes that have plagued economic planning in too many Southern Illinois Communities. I adher to Rod Dreher's view that "Small, Local, Old and particular are almost always better than Big, Global, New and Abstract". Walkable neighborhoods with excellent services that end our need for an automobile for every errand seems not just attractive, but in light of skyrocketing fuel prices, absolutely necessary. That is at least one crucial element of appropriate development.

I will state unequivocally that the development of Bleyer Field and the areas along Main St. will affect our neighborhood for the next several decades. If it not done in a way that is appropriate, we will suffer loss in our property values, not to mention our quality of life. Bleyer Field can reasonably be said to be the key to our entire West Side.

D Gorton

Labels: ,

I support small and walkable development in this area. Good luck. As it happens, when I moved to Carbondale I lived in the Heritage Motel (across from the area under description) until I found a house.
I HATED Carbondale at that time, because of the traffic and the inability to walk 2 blocks to the National grocery (now Schnucks) due to no traffic lights stopping cars for pedestrians. The cross walk didn't deter cars. They seemed to think the lines were a targeting device.
With gasoline going up, we do need to think about making Carbondale a walkable city. I see more and more people on the streets, but no slowing of traffic to accommodate them.
Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]