The Carbondale Observer

News and commentary about Carbondale, Illinois and SIUC

Appearance Counts

with 3 comments

I wrote three posts earlier this week touching on urban design and I wanted to follow up on those. I found this plaque on the Southeast Missourian Building  in Cape Girardeau. I’m not sure how legible the photo will be in your browser so I am going to quote the important part:

Built in 1924-25  Newspaper owners George & Fred Naeter wrote of their inspiration: “To add in a large way beauty and dignity to one’s town is to express affection for the community and confidence in its future.”

In other words, appearance counts. If building something beautiful and dignified expresses affection and confidence, then building something ugly and undignified expresses contempt for the community and indifference about its future. 

There are some nice properties in Carbondale and some, like the Newell House building and the Queen Anne home on W. Oak St., have been rehabbed in recent years. Many others have been allowed to further deteriorate or have been covered with boring and monotonous tan vinyl siding. Some others have been demolished.

Infrastructure counts as well. Having quality sidewalks and drainage sends one message about a community; having broken or absent sidewalks and open ditches sends a different message.

I’m not just talking about the message we send to students, new faculty/administration, or tourists. I’m talking about the message we send ourselves. We live with this city – its design, its architecture, and its infrastructure. It speaks most frequently to us.

I realize local government only builds a few buildings, and those are mostly pretty nice. I realize that it is difficult or impossible to coerce private landowners to maintain their properties. I realize that infrastructure improvement projects are expensive and taxes in Jackson County are already higher than in some neighboring counties.

There are obstacles to a more attractive Carbondale, but it may be possible to overcome some of them. To do so will require leadership. Fortunately, we are having an election in a few months and we will have the opportunity to choose political leadership. Their will and creativity, or lack of those qualities, will affect how the community looks, moves, and feels.

It is important that we choose wisely. To do so, we will need information. I hope candidates in the 2011 Carbondale elections will share their views on how Carbondale can encourage positive rehabilitation and redevelopment.  Policy options are available and voters should know which of those candidates support.

I need to do some research, but I plan to blog more on this subject in the future.

Comments are welcome.

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Written by The Carbondale Observer

October 14, 2010 at 8:30 am

3 Responses

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  1. […] week I wrote a post about the importance of aesthetics. I am going to expand on that by highlighting a particularly […]

  2. Sweet post, so glad you are touching on these realities that have such a huge impact indeed on how others see us, and on how we see ourselves… great insight.
    I think that Carbondale’s decaying housing stock has led to an overall community psychology of “we are not worthy” and that “we do not deserve any better.” There is a hopelessness that pierces so many conversations. This hopelessness only feeds the problems, and serves as a huge obstacle to positive transformation.
    But the only true limitation is our own belief systems, which are actually quite mutable. Things can change in Carbondale, and things will change, but it require the residents of Carbondale to take the brave step and do things different. This can start by not voting for one of the usual suspects for mayor of Carbondale, all great fellows who have firmly planted themselves as enforcers of the status quo, but rather the candidate who actually to putting forth the ideas that will finally carry Carbondale into the 21st Century not limping, but running. Thanks for your time…. Brent Ritzel, Carbondale Mayoral Candidate

    Brent Ritzel

    January 18, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    • Thanks for the comment. I agree that our poor housing stock affects our attitudes. I’d add our unattractive commercial developments to the list of offenders.

      You mention hopelessness. I’ve noticed that too. A few years ago, I found a map of Carbondale from the late seventies. On the back of the map, there was a little blurb about the town. It touted some of our recent accomplishments and infrastructure improvements and mentioned that Carbondale was planning for an eventual population of over 70,000 people. Now people scoff at Brad Cole’s goal of reaching 30,000 residents by 2020.

      I do think there are some limits to our growth potential, but we DO have potential. So far it hasn’t been realized.

      The Carbondale Observer

      January 19, 2011 at 9:34 pm


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