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CARBONDALE -- Representatives from SIU and Southern Illinois Healthcare said Wednesday their organizations are completely in favor of forming a downtown master plan.

SIU and SIH, two of the biggest employers in Carbondale and Southern Illinois, made presentations at the Downtown Master Plan Advisory Committee at the SIU Student Health Center. The topic was the integration of SIU and SIH to the downtown area.

“SIU is excited about this project and we are strongly committed to this project,” said SIU President Randy Dunn. “We are willing to consider anything and everything that needs to happen to move it forward.”

Carbondale City Manager Kevin Baity talked earlier in the evening about the need of a potential downtown hotel for families of the university or patients at the hotel. 

SIH President Rex Budde said the idea of a hotel is appealing to his organization because of more complex procedures being done at Memorial Hospital of Carbondale.

“We are bringing in people from further and further geographical distances for services at this hospital,” he said. “So all that plays very nicely into the concept of a hotel downtown.”

Budde said there are more than 1,200 employees at Memorial Hospital of Carbondale, and more than 20 surgeons have joined the SIH staff since 2011. He said those people need places to live or stay.

“I have every interest in seeing the downtown area improve and our organization has every interest in participating in that process,” he said.

Dunn said if a plan is going to come together, it will take people working together and being committed to the process.

“Any time you use a change of this magnitude in city development, it is not because of one entity is taking the ball and running with it,” he said. “It will be all of us coming together, doing our best thinking and coming forward with a plan that really speaks to the needs that all of us have.”

Dunn said The Strip is integral to SIU and the city because when attempting to recruit students, they are looking for a "wow" factor.

“Right now, that competition is beating us on this as we look at comparable institution around the country,” he said.

He told the committee to be bold when thinking about their ideas for downtown, and this is something the city needs to get right this time around.

“If we don’t get it on this pass, I worry it may never get done,” Dunn said. “I do think that it is time to strike the iron.”

Committee member D. Gorton spoke to the committee and audience about the need for high-speed Internet and how to implement it.

He asked Steve Mitchell, IT manager of Connect SI, and James Mayer, CEO of Mayer Networks, to talk to audience about what can be done.

Mitchell said with the involvement of all entities involved in the Downtown Master Plan, the city stands poised to make a major impact on the economic impact of the downtown area.

“Connect SI stands ready to support that any way we can,” he said.

Mayer said providing wireless Internet to downtown is critical in having people use the downtown area the way the city would like.

“If there is something we can do to help push everything, we will do it totally free of charge to help Carbondale get off the ground,” he said.

dustin.duncan@thesouthern.com

618-351-5823

on twitter: @zd2000

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Dustin Duncan is a reporter for The Southern Illinoisan covering Carbondale.

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