The future of Carbondale’s old National Guard Armory could affect the city’s rehabilitation of the northwest neighborhood.
The Illinois Department of Military Affairs is selling the facility, and it will be open to visits Dec. 20 and Jan. 5 and 10.
It will be open to sealed bids between those dates, said Jim Lund, facilities officer for the Illinois National Guard. He said he has already received several calls from people inquiring about the sale.
The armory, which was built in the late 1930s, was replaced by a new facility near the Southern Illinois Airport in July and is now unoccupied.
Given its age, it was no longer suitable for the new needs of the military, said National Guard spokesman Brad Leighton.
The large lot, on the corner of Oakland and Sycamore, is in the middle of a residential neighborhood designated for rehabilitation in the Carbondale Comprehensive Plan.
This makes what happens with the building particularly important, acting city manager Kevin Baity said at the State of the City Address Tuesday.
“The future use of this facility is key to the continued viability of this northwest neighborhood,” he said.
Old facilities like this can be repurposed in a number of ways, especially with some creative thinking, Lund said.
The main building consists of a large wooden drill floor, similar to a gymnasium, surrounded by offices and other rooms, he said. The site also includes two vehicle storage buildings.
He said the construction is solid reinforced concrete, so it would be difficult to modify extensively, but it would still be possible to make some changes.
“It’s probably the stoutest building in Carbondale,” he said.
Municipalities often buy these facilities to be used as offices or community centers, Leighton said.
Councilwoman Jane Adams said the city should certainly discuss the possibility of purchasing it.
In any case, the city will be able to have an influence on what goes there, as any development will have to pass through the Planning Commission and the City Council, she said.
Since most of the site is zoned for low-density residential, something like a factory would be unacceptable, she said, and it is needs to fit in with the surrounding area. She said given its large drill floor, it could be used as a recreational facility.
“Whatever use goes in there really needs to be in harmony with and enhance that neighborhood,” she said.
Jan Eisenhard, who lives adjacent to the site, said she’s worried about what might go in there. The National Guard were good neighbors and kept the facility looking good, she said. As a bonus, the sheds blocked her house from Sycamore’s traffic, and she said she’s afraid those might be torn down.
She said she hopes the site isn’t used for business, as it would attract more traffic into the area.
Eric Lenz, who also lives near the armory, said he doesn’t care so much if a business moves in, so long as the current building isn’t demolished or left vacant.
“I’d like to see it preserved,” he said.
There are already some large unused buildings in the neighborhood, such as Hollywood Video and the old high school, so it would be best to avoid another one, he said.
Eisenhard said though parts of the neighborhood haven’t been in the best shape lately, recent developments seem to indicate it’s turning around. There have been new houses built and some eyesores torn down, she said.
“It definitely helps to spruce up the neighborhood,” she said.