The Carbondale Observer

News and commentary about Carbondale, Illinois and SIUC

Armory Update

with 19 comments

The state received five bids on the old National Guard armory at Oakland and Sycamore. The bidders are:

  1. City of Carbondale – $9,999
  2. Servants for Christ Ministries – $15,525
  3. Arthur Agency – $25,525
  4. Christine Boettcher – $40,000
  5. Andy Wallace – $80,000

The Department of Military Affairs is still reviewing the bids and have not yet accepted the high bid. It’s possible that they may re-advertise.

My preference is for the city to get the Armory. If the city doesn’t get it, I’d prefer that it go either the Servants for Christ Ministries or the Arthur Agency. A church would be an okay use of the building. So would offices, which I assume is the use Arthur Agency has in mind, although that use would require rezoning the property. It’s not clear yet what Christine Boettcher or Andy Wallace have in mind for the property. There are rumors, but no hard facts.

My first priority is for the building to be used and maintained. My second priority is that it be used in a way that benefits the community and doesn’t place an unfair burden on the surrounding neighborhood. A public, community use would be best.

Comments are welcome.


Written by The Carbondale Observer

January 28, 2012 at 1:03 pm

19 Responses

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  1. Thanks for the update on this! Any more information about Christine Boettcher? I wasn’t able to find any connection between her and a business or non-profit interest.

    Sharon Wittke

    January 28, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    • Sharon Wittke – I don’t have any information on Boettcher aside from what John Holt offers below. I was aware of the connection between her and Wallace, but I didn’t post it – in part for the reasons he identifies.

      The Carbondale Observer

      January 28, 2012 at 8:59 pm

  2. First, Chris is widely known in the community as a friend and business associate of Andy Wallace. If you call Alpha Rentals you can probably speak to her personally. Secondly, I don’t much like giving you any personal information about people when you yourself have this anonymity fetish.

    And finally, speaking now as a real estate broker…the highest and best use, given the existence of plenty of off-street paved parking, is for the Armory to be re-developed as a condo or apartment complex. I would consider Wallace to be the best buyer.

    The best use of the old football field would have been for a PUD with entry-level homes or duplexes, and the best use of the old high school main building would also have been a condo redevelopment. The city should have applied pressure to the high school board to help those things happen, because they could have been keys to a renaissance of the NW side. The Armory, while not quite as big a deal, nevertheless could benefit us all most by conversion to an upscale residential use.

    John Holt

    January 28, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    • John Holt – First I’ll respond to the substance of your comment, then to the anonymity stuff.

      On the highest and best use, I have two reservations. The first is demand. I suppose as a real estate broker, you’d know more about this than I would. Is it your impression that there’s a demand for upscale residential condos? If so, I’d love to see it happen. Every time we drive past the armory, my spouse remarks that it would make a great condo conversion and that in “a bigger city” that’s what would happen (incidentally, my spouse says the same thing about the south part of the old Tesa Tape building). I agree on both points. It would make a great condo conversion, and in a bigger city, that probably would happen. But we’re not in a bigger city, we’re in Carbondale.

      So I’m asking you – do you think there is demand in Carbondale for upscale condos? Who would buy them? Would it be retirees ready to sell the house and downsize to something that requires less maintenance? Would it be young professors or other professionals (are there other professionals?) who appreciate the benefits of condo life? Would the conversion be to apartments instead of condos, and who would rent them? Students?

      I’m not saying there isn’t any demand for upscale condos, I’m just saying I don’t see the evidence for it – at least not in the central part of town. I guess you could make a case for the Villas at Chautaqua, but that’s on the edge of town in the family neighborhood. The area around Oakland and Sycamore contains a mix of students and families with and without children. My gut tells me that if there was demand for that type of development, someone would be building it. Maybe not, though. After all, to develop the Armory as you suggest would require rezoning part of the parcel and you can bet the neighbors will turn out to oppose it.

      And that brings me to my second reservation: the tolerance or lack of tolerance for change on the part of the people of Carbondale. I’ve argued on this blog many, many times that we’d benefit from a denser, more urban pattern of development. As you know, the places where that style of development would work best (in the center of town, near the downtown) are areas where it would be prohibited by our code. I’m not a fan of those prohibitions, and I’ve argued against them repeatedly on this blog. If you go back and look at the archives, you’ll see those posts. Specifically, I suggest another look at a couple of posts from August 2011: “Home Rentals, Density, and Neighborhood Revitalization” (which you commented on), and “Apartments A Key Part of Neighborhood Revitalization.”

      You’ll see that whenever I bring this subject up, I get lots of comments in opposition to density and a more urban development pattern. What you don’t see is that I also get emails opposing those policies. People in Carbondale seem fiercely opposed to any progress on this front. Some of them oppose it because they think the big landlords will somehow take advantage of the new policies. I’m guessing here, but I think a lot of them oppose it because they fancy themselves liberals, and they think that means they should be hostile to business, and they also think density benefits business. I don’t understand that line of thinking; I’m a liberal and I support density because of the health and environmental benefits it brings.

      Even if there is demand for upscale condos, the people in this town have the power to veto that kind of development, and they will not hesitate to exercise their veto. Maybe those folks are an organized, vocal minority. Maybe the majority of Carbondale is friendly or indifferent to progress on density and urbanism. I don’t know (and I kind of doubt it), but it really doesn’t matter. An organized, vocal minority will defeat an unorganized, silent majority every time.

      Making the policy changes that would allow greater density will require political action. Specifically, it would require an organized smart growth counterweight to the “no development of any kind” lobby. I see no evidence of such sentiment and no evidence of attempts to organize it. I see no potential leaders. I’d like to believe change is possible in Carbondale, but it’s tough to square that belief with reality.

      I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the above, either in another comment or in an email.

      Now I’ll address the anonymity portion of your comment – briefly, though, because I am planning a post on anonymity. I don’t have an “anonymity fetish,” as you claim above. I had my reasons for choosing to blog anonymously. I mentioned some of those in the “about” page and I’ll mention a few more in my upcoming post. But I’ve always been sensitive to what I see as the special burden anonymity places on me.

      What I mean is, I’ve always been careful to post nothing on the blog that I wouldn’t want posted with my own name attached to it. I do occasionally criticize public officials but when I do, I’m careful to criticize their behavior or their positions on issues. I never criticize them personally and I never question character. When a person enters the public arena by running for office, he or she has to expect and accept a certain amount of criticism – anonymous or otherwise. As long as I keep any criticism fair and limit it to behavior and policy positions, I think anonymity is fine.

      That’s the standard for public officials. Private citizens are another story entirely. I think it’s fair to post the names of the bidders on the armory. A public building is for sale, and the public has a right to know who’s bidding on it. That’s fair game. But I chose not to post the relationship between two of the bidders, although I was aware of it. That didn’t seem relevant to the issue at hand. I also didn’t post any personal information about either of the two private individuals who bid on the armory. I don’t see any valid criticism of what I’ve posted here, whether the post is anonymous or not.

      I’d like to go on, but I’ll save it for the anonymity post.

      The Carbondale Observer

      January 28, 2012 at 9:45 pm

      • Carbondale Observer, thanks for the update. I’m a new DE reporter who is trying to understand the background about this building, since I’m not from the area and don’t know a whole lot about Carbondale or its politics. I will NOT use anything on the blog in a report without first obtaining the express permission of both the blog owner and the poster of a comment.
        The National Guard Public Affairs Office in Springfield was able to fill me a little on the process, but, of course, couldn’t release any specific information.

        Sharon Wittke

        January 29, 2012 at 12:25 pm

        • Sharon – No problem. And you’re free to use anything in the blog without permission for noncommercial purposes as long as you attribute the source and link to me. I’d consider the D.E. a noncommercial purpose even though the DE takes ads. It’s a student newspaper. Good luck!

          The Carbondale Observer

          January 29, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    • Thanks, John Holt, for the information. I missed the Armory meeting a couple of weeks ago and am trying to play catch-up on the background.

      Sharon Wittke

      January 29, 2012 at 12:21 pm

  3. Excuse me, Sharon Wittke. I thought I was addressing a question by the blog owner and didn’t realize an identifiable person was asking.

    John Holt

    January 28, 2012 at 8:21 pm

  4. As someone who lives the neighborhood, I’m not crazy about the idea of any high density housing that isn’t upscale. We already have a delicate balance of high density rentals and family homes. And more rentals would be bad for my property values and would tip the neighborhood away from being family-friendly (it barely is as it stands). It doesn’t sound like anyone wants to develop it for commercial use, which would be my preferred use (I love the idea of it being an indoor farmers market). Rest assured, I’ll be paying close attention to this one. I’m open to a lot of ideas; high density housing is not one of them.

    Scott McClurg

    January 29, 2012 at 10:04 am

    • Scott McClurg – I agree that an indoor farmer’s market would be great. And, as John Holt points out, I think multifamily residential would be a great use too – especially upscale condos. I’m not sure there is demand for that kind of development, but it would be a nice addition to the neighborhood if demand does exist. I wouldn’t want to see the Armory converted to student rentals, but I’d prefer that outcome to letting it stand empty and deteriorate and eventually be torn down.

      The Carbondale Observer

      January 29, 2012 at 8:20 pm

  5. If you would like some info as to what I might have in mind I suggest that you contact me. It is no big secret. Suggest you call me @ 618-319-0707. Andy Wallace

    Andy Wallace

    January 30, 2012 at 10:12 am

    • Andy Wallace – I’d be happy to contact you about your plans for the Armory, but I prefer email. You could leave your email address in another comment or, if you’d prefer, you could send me an email at carbondaleobserver(at) Replace the (at) with an @. Thanks for the comment!

      The Carbondale Observer

      January 30, 2012 at 5:38 pm

  6. Seems to me you blew this. You came out against a bunch of people, with no clue what the truth was. You were invited to pursue the truth and chose not to. Do better. I could figure this out with one phone call, to any of a dozen people and you can too.


    February 13, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    • PtG – No surprise here, but I disagree completely. What I mean is, I dispute your facts and I disagree with your conclusion.

      First the facts. I didn’t come out against anyone. I listed an order of preference for three of five options. I declined to take a position for or against two options
      (Wallace and Boettcher). Declining to take a position is not the same as opposing.

      As for the invitation to pursue the truth, I’ll tell you this. I write the blog on my own terms and I communicate with readers and sources on my own terms. That usually means email. I very, very rarely make phone calls. That’s just how I operate and it isn’t going to change.

      Incidentally, the person you reference did contact me via email. I replied, but did not receive a reply. That’s fine – no one has any responsibility to tell me anything – but I did pursue the information in my own way.

      You conclude from all this that, in your words, I blew it. I disagree. I accurately reported the information I had and I gave my opinion on it. That’s what I do. Mission accomplished!

      Thanks for the comment.

      The Carbondale Observer

      February 14, 2012 at 3:54 pm

      • “I write on my own terms,” is the mating call of the lazy. Good grief, that is sad.

        This whole thread is a joke. Your first choice is the Armory be given to the city? This would be the worst result, the city has no vision or capital to do anything there. Kind of a clueless big government saving the day. Maybe they can get a special tax levy to fund it, and always lose money until the end of time? See the Hickory Lodge and the Park District for your living example. Your second choice is to sell it to Glen Poshards son’s company? What exactly would an advertising company do with that area? They like built-in asbestos? Your thinking that Illinois government grants will make it fly? Do you see Dennis having the vision or capital to do something there?

        The best result from the Armory sale would be for it to go on the tax rolls (that would be anyone but a not for profit), to someone with enough vision and capital to do something productive with it. See the old Carbondale High School sale as what not to do. Give me a heartless real estate developer every time, to solve this kind of problem. Good heart and no checkbook is the path to heck for the Armory.

        You were doing pretty well during the election season. Your economic analysis is lame. A defense that you don’t agree, don’t know, and don’t want to find out, is about as bad as it gets. Actually, I heard this a lot from SIU employees over the years, now that I think about it. That is sad too.

        Yours truly,


        February 16, 2012 at 10:57 pm

        • PtG – I told you on the other post that I’m not going to get into a flame war with you. I told you that I won’t respond emotionally to your baiting, no matter how much you do it.

          I enjoy a discussion of the issues and I think that works best when people are respectful. When you disagree with people it isn’t necessary to call them lazy or lame. You make yourself look foolish when you do that. It’s better to make a reasoned, dispassionate case for your point of view.

          Awhile back I found it necessary to create a comments policy to keep the discussion civil. You can link to it from the top right of every page. I’ll save you the trouble and quote you a portion of it:

          “Second, please be respectful and polite. Specifically, this means:

          Argue for or against ideas, dispute facts, offer opinions, but don’t attack people.

          Assume others’ factual errors are innocent mistakes, not attempts to mislead.

          Assume others are smart and well meaning.

          Don’t bait others; don’t put words in others’ mouths.

          Don’t use hate speech.”

          In your comment, I see violations of three of five points. Your comment doesn’t include hate speech, and you don’t claim any factual mistakes are attempts to mislead (although, to be fair, I didn’t make any factual mistakes).

          This comment falls into the deletion zone. If it were directed at someone else, it would already be deleted. Since it’s directed at me, and I can take the criticism, I’ll leave it. But I’m not going to let you fill the blog with bitterness. Keep the comments clean or I’ll start deleting them.

          That said, I’ll respond to a couple points. First, the accusation of laziness. This is one you’ve thrown at me before. Maybe you don’t understand what I’m doing here. This blog isn’t a job or a business. I have no desire to monetize it now or anytime in the future.

          It’s a hobby. Kind of like model trains or stamp collecting. Is it possible to be lazy with a hobby? Isn’t a hobby something you do for fun? Something you do as much or as little as you like? Something you do when you have time for it, but not something you place ahead of your other responsibilities?

          The claim of laziness is silly – a transparent attempt to bait me. Here’s the proof: as of the 2010 census, Carbondale contains 25,902 people. By my count, there are five active blogs about Carbondale: this one, the Carbondaze Gazette, Deo Volente, Jane Adams’ blog, and Amy Erickson’s. Assume the other four bloggers all work harder at blogging than I do. I’m still doing more blogging than 99.999806965% of Carbondale’s population. That’s not lazy.

          One other issue. You impugn my economic analysis. That’s funny because I didn’t do any economic analysis in this post. The closest I came to economic analysis on the armory issue was in another post in which I argued that the city and neighborhood should be willing to make the zoning changes necessary for a business to make a profit on the property, assuming it’s sold to a business. In a comment on that post, I expressed my shock at the hostility to markets I sensed at the neighborhood meeting on the Armory.

          You make a clumsy attempt to pigeonhole me as a big government liberal. In other posts I’ve argued that Carbondale is over-regulated and people have left comments alleging that I’m an extreme anti-government conservative. Funny how people view what I say through their own ideological filters. I guess it’s easier to fight straw men than make reasoned arguments against actual people.

          Well, I’ve gone long again, as is my habit. Is that a mark of laziness? Since you may have forgotten the warning I gave you at the beginning of the comment, I’ll repeat it. I’m not going to let you bait me into a flame war, and I’m not going to respond emotionally to your provocations. But I’m also not going to let you fill the blog with bitterness. Read the comment policy and keep your comments in line with it, otherwise I’ll have to delete them.

          The Carbondale Observer

          February 16, 2012 at 11:59 pm

          • PtG – I’ll add one more thing. I do enjoy your comments, aside from the nastiness. You have a unique perspective and these kinds of conversations benefit from as many perspectives as possible.

            And I suspect we agree on more than you think we do. We definitely disagree on some points, but I’d guess that if we were to go through Carbondale’s problems point by point, we’d find broad swaths of agreement.

            Keep commenting, but keep it to issues and ideas and avoid the personal attacks.

            The Carbondale Observer

            February 17, 2012 at 12:24 am

  7. I don’t understand, there are no remarks here that are attacks. All you have to write is… PtG are right, I didn’t think this through. But, you keep defending your original post. I know we both agree what I wrote here, because it is correct. I also know that my economic development view is more developed than yours, after all, I am both a business person and have spent a whole lot of cycles working on it.

    I encourage you to keep writing, but why not change your position, when you are clearly off target?


    February 21, 2012 at 3:33 pm

  8. […] my last post on the bidding process on the old National Guard Armory at Oakland and Sycamore, I didn’t […]

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