City council approves Pappas’ second downtown development

August 15, 2017 GMT

DeKALB – Projects aimed to revitalize downtown DeKalb continue to gain approval after City Council approved developer John Pappas’ $6 million Plaza DeKalb apartment project Monday.

This four-story apartment and commercial-use building on Second Street and Lincoln Highway will be roughly a block away from the $7.5 million Cornerstone building, a similar project spearheaded by Pappas.

The proposal was approved by a 5-1 vote with Sixth Ward Alderman Mike Verbic voting no. First Ward Alderman David Jacobson and Fourth Ward Alderman Patrick Fagan were not in attendance.

Verbic said he did not have a problem with the merit of the project, but affirmed that he would not support any project requiring tax increment financing expenditures until there was a thorough analysis of the use of these funds.

Pappas is requesting a $1.9 million tax increment financing contribution, or 31.7 percent of the total construction cost, from the city to help pay for the project. Should the building be finished under budget, the city would pay only 31.7 percent of the adjusted cost.

The project requires the demolition of the former Carter’s Cottage building at 209 E. Lincoln Highway, which now houses the Blu Door Decor antique store. Properties at 203, 223 and 229 E. Lincoln Highway will be renovated to create the four-story facility with 23 fully furnished units.

There are no concrete plans to provide additional parking for the residents, but Pappas has two parcels along Locust Street under contract for possible future parking, if desired or required.

A specialty grocery store and a small restaurant will be on the first floor of the building.

Ammar Mahmood, owner of Jamrah Middle Eastern Cuisine in DeKalb, is looking to occupy the grocery store and said opening a retail store would be no strange venture for him as a small business owner.

“As business folks, I think we have a responsibility toward the community and definitely try to do whatever we can to make this a positive place to live,” Mahmood said.

Public reactions were mixed for the project, with some welcoming a new project to spur economic development and others critical of the large TIF incentive and no parking plan.

“Parking is an issue, and it’s been an issue for a long time, and we can’t ignore it,” former Mayor Bessie Chronopoulos said. “TIF in this community has not been vetted properly in a long time, and it has not been analyzed how TIF has been spent.”

A special committee of the whole meeting to discuss phaseout of the city’s two TIF districts is scheduled for Sept. 19.