Carbondale construction spurred to prepare for 2017 eclipse - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Carbondale construction spurred to prepare for 2017 eclipse

Source: KFVS Source: KFVS
CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS) -

Construction is now underway on a four story hotel with 90 rooms in the heart of Carbondale.

The project is one of many Carbondale leaders hope to see finished before the solar eclipse of 2017 attracts tens of thousands to the region.

Nearby business owners say they believe the improvements will have an effect on Carbondale that outlives the hype of the eclipse.

“With this hotel going up, I think it may bring SIU sports teams and such to the shops here on the Strip.” Said Uppercuts Barber shop owner Josh Spears on Thursday. “We’ll get constant tourists up here from families coming in to watch a game, to competitors staying for a weekend.”

Workers are already excavating the lot between PK’s Bar and Uppercuts on NB U.S. 51, and plan to demolish two nearby buildings within a week.

The parcel of land was purchased from the city for about $75,000.

Uppercuts is one of many prosperous locally-owned shops on northbound US 51 (Historically known as ‘The Strip’ in Carbondale.), and has been in business since about 2010.

“We could get them in and out, and try to make them feel nice and warm here in Carbondale.” Spears explained.

The City meanwhile chips away at what seems to be an ever-growing list of construction projects destined for the area, and has set completion dates of several preceding the arrival of an estimated 50,000 stargazers next summer.

The improvements come at a price, motivating the council to approve a tax hike for funding.

That hike's implementation was potentially delayed following public outcry, but the city's to-do list chugs on.

“All of our plans downtown are directly related to the eclipse of August of 2017 at this point.” Said City Manager Gary Williamson Thursday. “There’s a certain degree of anxiety about how well we can manage, and how well we’re going to handle it… but we’ve hired someone to oversee preparations, and are taking the responsibility very seriously.”

Home to Southern Illinois University, Williams confirms that NASA intends to set up their headquarters in Carbondale at Saluki Stadium, where representatives of SIU say a NASA live stream will be established.

Williams says construction of the City’s proposed multimodal transportation hub, the update of downtown city-scapes, infrastructure improvements, and the private completion of the new Hotel will be scheduled in preparation for the eclipse.

Parking is a well-voiced concern for many business owners in Carbondale, and the hotel will take place of a parking lot.

Williams said he acknowledged the absence of ‘convenient’ parking in the downtown region, but said there are ample spaces for regular traffic.

During high traffic  times like next year’s eclipse, Williams said establishing a temporary shuttle service and remote parking areas may end up being necessary.

City leaders are in conversations with the new Hotel’s contractor for a remote construction worker parking area in order to keep parking available for businesses.

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