The public soon will have a chance top weigh in on proposed concepts for the transformation of a piece of historic property located near the center of Carbondale.
Thirty-two prospective site plans for Founders Park -- a planned public space for the empty lot located along Mill Street immediately behind the Carbondale Public Safety Center -- will be presented to the public at an event set for 2 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 13 at the Carbondale Civic Center.
The site of the planned park has played a vital role in Carbondale's development since almost the beginning. As the birthplace of both District 95 and 165 schools, the piece of land also played a crucial role in the development of SIU and even, reportedly, was the site of the first SIU football game.
The Carbondale Historical Preservation Commission first took an interest in the publicly owned property several years ago, and in late 2017, following approval by the city council, a sign went up designating the land as the under-development Founders Park.
At the same time, the preservation commission engaged with Karen Midden, now the interim dean of SIU's College of Agricultural Sciences, to bring the university's horticulture students into the process. As a result, students enrolled last semester in landscape design designed possible plans for the site as a class assignment, bearing in mind only a few requirements: including a historic monument, a flag pole, seven kiosk stations including historic information, seating for outdoor events. trees, and public parking on the south end.
Some of the concepts the students included left city organizers pleasantly surprised.
"It has blown my mind because no two of these drawings are alike," city councilman Tom Grant said.
The student-made concepts also resulted in some smart refinements to what the city initially had planned.
"We want to recreate the fencing you see at Woodlawn Cemetery," commission member Kevin Clark said, noting that students liked the fencing but believed that surrounding the entire park with it would serve to close it off. "We took that to heart. We're looking forward to having a park that's open."
The June 13 event will allow the public to view the student concepts and weigh in on the park's proposed amenities. Grant estimates the development and construction of the park to be a five-year project.