The Carbondale Observer

News and commentary about Carbondale, Illinois and SIUC

Gated Community Under Construction on New Era Road

with 2 comments

Construction of a new gated community is under way on New Era Road. The Villas of Carbondale will contain fifty retirement residences. Ten percent of the residences will be reserved for extremely low income seniors, 86 percent of the units will go to low income seniors, and the remaining four percent will be available at market rate.

The city council approved the development back in 2007 after the planning commission unanimously rejected it. I thought the housing market collapse and the recession had killed or stalled the project, but actually the resulting recovery act funded it:

Retirees are generally considered desirable residents. They pay taxes, but they don’t have kids in school and usually don’t burden police and fire departments. Local retail benefits from additional consumers and health care providers get additional patients. Of course, this assumes at least some of the residents come from outside of Carbondale rather than from within.

There are sketches of the finished development available online. The finished project will look a little different because the city required several changes to the original plan (pdf). The developer may build a second phase after finishing the units currently under construction. Oddly, there is no mention of this project on the developer’s website.

I’m generally not fond of gated communities. Unless security is a genuine concern, there is no reason to build a gated community. I can’t imagine why anyone would feel unsafe in a field on New Era Road, so I would have preferred that the fence be left out.

Despite the fence, the project will probably be a benefit for the city. Retail and health care are two of the most important sectors of the local economy, and this development will likely provide some benefit to each. Since these are mostly low income units, I suspect the benefit to local retail will be small.

Comments are welcome.


Written by The Carbondale Observer

October 21, 2010 at 7:45 am

2 Responses

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  1. How will the 96% of residents who are low or extremely low income get into town?
    This site is the epitome of poor city planning, as there is not a single service or retail facility needed by that population available in the vicinity. How will such low income residents even afford to transport themselves IN TOWN to the City of Carbondale so that retail CAN benefit from additional low income consumers?

    Brent Ritzel

    October 26, 2010 at 11:08 am

  2. Thanks for the comment. You bring up a couple of points that I’ll address.

    Concerning transportation, the sketches (linked in the article) show garages on all the buildings, so I’m guessing the residents will have cars. Even low income people have cars – sometimes nice ones. I’m guessing any residents without cars will catch rides, use the Jackson County Mass Transit buses ($2.00 each way for seniors), or call a cab.

    You also mention poor city planning. Specifically you mention service and retail availability in the area. It’s true that there is little retail near the development. There is a Dollar General at the end of New Era Road and a CVS across the highway, but that’s it. Murdale is relatively close. Still, for better or worse, the east side is Carbondale’s principal retail district.

    Service availability is better. There are a number of medical facilities clustered around the intersection of Striegel and Main. I chose Cedar Court Imaging at random and Google mapped it. It’s .9 miles, which is kind of a long way on foot (especially when there are no sidewalks), but if you’re driving it’s only 2 minutes. A resident could conceivably make a lot of his or her medical visits within one mile of home.

    Aside from proximity to service and retail there are other urban planning issues to consider. I think an efficient and connected street grid is important. I would have preferred a site design that allowed the development to be integrated into our street network. Of course this is a gated community, so connection to the street system wouldn’t have been compatible.

    I also think walkability is important, but Carbondale hasn’t been willing to tolerate the residential density and mixed uses that make walkability possible. Our current zoning ordinance makes walkable development illegal. We also haven’t been willing to invest in necessary infrastructure like wide sidewalks, streetlights, and modern drainage. Until we make some necessary changes to our zoning laws and upgrade our infrastructure, we won’t get walkability.

    Thanks again for the comment. When people comment, this blog becomes a dialogue, which is more interesting then a monologue.

    The Carbondale Observer

    October 26, 2010 at 7:35 pm

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