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Find out what's happening in the blog. Below is a list of blog items.

Nov 09

An interview with Traci Lemay, Fire Department Administrative Analyst

Posted to City Spotlight by Chris Jackson

DeKalb is a great place to live, work, and play. The "City Spotlight" series is a new effort to highlight the people who work to make DeKalb great.For our fifth installment, we spoke with Traci Lemay, who is the Fire Department's Administrative Analyst
Lemay, Traci
Q: What is one reason you are #ProudlyDekalb?

A: DeKalb has many of the amenities of a larger city (public transportation, entertainment venues, sporting events, etc.) but is able to maintain a small town community atmosphere.

Q.If you were sent to live on a space station for three months and only allowed to bring three personal items with you, what would they be? 

A: I would bring my laptop, sewing machine, and guitar. My laptop because I could read books, watch movies and TV shows, listen to music, work on genealogy, and video chat with people back on Earth; my sewing machine to make quilts; and my guitar to play.
 space guitar 

Q: If you had a time machine that would work only once, what point in the future or in history would you visit? 

A: I would visit 1840 Caldwell/Crittenden County Kentucky. I am stuck on a few of the genealogical lines from my dad’s side of the family and would be able to talk to them and ask them the questions to which I can’t find answers.

Q: What is your favorite line from a film or television show? 

A: Either  “People don't drink the sand because they're thirsty. They drink the sand because they don't know the difference.” from The American President" or “Hold that hog leg” from McClintock

Q: If money were no object, how would you spend your birthday?

A:  At the spa in the Hershey Hotel in Hershey Pennsylvania having a chocolate escape treatment

tumblr chocolate fountains

Q: Describe your outlook on life in six words

A: Live well, laugh often, love much!

Q: What is your favorite way to spend time off from work? 

A: With family and friends; trapshooting; or alone time reading, quilting, or working on genealogy.

Q: What is one of your favorite places to eat in DeKalb and why? 

A: Twins Tavern for their pot roast sandwich.

twin tavern 

you Traci for taking the time to answer our questions!

Ellen Lindgren
Apr 14

How do I stay up to date with the Boards, Committees, and Commissions?

Posted to How to: City of DeKalb by City of DeKalb

With the combination of Boards, Committees, and Commissions (BCCs) that are included within the City of DeKalb it can sometimes be difficult to keep up to date on specific meetings and members. This post will review the different website functions that will help you stay informed on everything B/C/C related.

The fastest way to access meetings and agendas is to click on the “Meetings & Agendas” button which is found on the front page (pictured below).

meetings and agendas button

The Agenda Center (pictured below) lets you search agendas and minutes by time period, start date / end date, particular phrases and even by specific boards and commissions. You can even find information dating back to 2012!  This is the easiest tool to use when trying to locate specific meeting agendas or minutes.

agenda center

Another useful tool that is helpful for knowing the dates of specific meetings is the City Calendar. Below is a picture of where you can find it on the front page.

events button

Within the City Calendar you can not only look at specific months, but you can choose what calendar you want to look at. You can select all calendars, or you can choose a more niche calendar depending on what you are looking for. You can also click on a specific date on the calendar to see what events are occurring. If you don’t know what category the meeting you are interested falls under, you can search for it within the search bar.

city calender

Utilizing and becoming familiar with both of these two tools will help you stay informed on the variety of Boards, Committees, and Commissions within the City.

Feb 23

Cornerstone Development

Posted to Just the Facts by City of DeKalb

The City of DeKalb City Council recently discussed the proposed construction of a roughly $7,500,000 development located at the southeastern corner of Lincoln Highway and First Street, at the site of the former Otto’s.  The proposed development would consist of the demolition of four buildings at that location, and the construction of a new four-story mixed-used facility with extensive first floor commercial (inclusive of a proposed upscale bar/grill and the relocation of the existing Barb City Bagels to a new facility), with 51 one-bedroom, premium apartments located on the upper three floors.  Since the public discussion of the project, there have been some misconceptions regarding the nature of the project, which are outlined below.

Cornerstone Development

Fact One:  The City worked extensively to save Otto’s, but the Owner declined to fix the property, and it is presently beyond repair.

The Otto’s building suffered broken pipes in January of 2014 when the Owner failed to properly heat the building.  Those pipes caused flooding and damage inside the building.  Following that event, the Owner never undertook repairs to the building, and never even applied for a building permit.  Several months after the flooding, the Owner surrendered the liquor license for the premises and chose to not reopen.  The building presently has significant damage that jeopardizes its safety and structural integrity, and requires hundreds of thousands of dollars of environmental remediation.  The pictures below show some of the condition of the building:

Building Condition

Building Condition

The City worked with the Owner extensively to avoid having to pursue demolition of the building.  Finally, 990 days after the initial flooding, the City was forced to file a legal action seeking remediation or demolition of the structure, based upon the public safety threat that the building poses.  Because of the Owner’s failure to maintain the building, it is believed that interior water damage has caused weakening of the common brick wall shared between the Otto’s building and the adjacent building in which the Mediterraneo’s restaurant is located.

Fact Two:  The City has a need for premium, one-bedroom rental units in the downtown.

Some have raised concerns that the construction of new residential rental units will generate further vacancy in other residential rentals.  Recent market experience has shown that there is market demand for units of this nature.  For example, a recent premium apartment development completed in Sycamore by the developer proposing the Cornerstone project has a wait list for apartments that exceeds supply several times over.  The City does not presently have a housing product that serves the market that Cornerstone will serve.

Fact Three:  The City needs greater population density in the central business district.

The City has commissioned several studies and plans for the downtown area that identify the best opportunities to restore a vibrant downtown.  Those plans all indicate that the City needs a greater density of daytime and nighttime population to support local business, create traffic, and generate commercial opportunities.  Other communities that have a vibrant downtown area also feature significant, high-quality residential opportunities.  The availability of premium rental units in the downtown will bring new population to the downtown and spur other commercial opportunities.

Fact Four:  In a healthy community, restaurants benefit from adjacent and nearby restaurant developments.

The suggestion has been made that if a new restaurant opens, it will hurt the business of existing restaurants.  That suggestion is based upon the premise that the City has a fixed market of consumers and cannot draw new interest.  A quality, attractive development that adds to the core of existing dining opportunities in the downtown can draw new interest in the downtown, and bring more consumers into the City to dine and generate revenue.  Again, looking at areas that have successful, busy downtown core commercial areas, they typically feature a wide array of dining options, so that consumers have multiple choices and can select an alternate venue if the wait at one restaurant is too significant.

Fact Five:  Without a City incentive, redevelopment of the site will not occur.

The City has been working for a period of years to attract any commercial interest in the property at issue, to no avail.  Constructing a development on this site requires costly environmental remediation, demolition, site restoration and utility improvements that put the downtown at a competitive disadvantage in comparison to building a new structure in vacant areas or other communities.  The practical experience of those seeking to undertake significant developments in the downtown is that it is difficult if not impossible to obtain commercial lending to support the redevelopment.  Because of the significant cost penalty associated with redevelopment in the downtown, if the City wishes to see redevelopment occur in that area, an incentive is necessary.

Separate from the costs of remediating and demolishing the safety concerns at the Otto’s and Mediterraneo’s buildings, the tenants in the existing building at 122 S. First Street have reported issues with the building roof, envelope and mechanical systems.  The age of the buildings and the failure to maintain the buildings over long periods of time has generated deterioration that makes the properties unviable for development without public support.

Fact Six:  The project will generate a significant return on investment for the City and for other taxing districts.

This project is being evaluated on the basis of a thirty-year repayment, based on the nature of commercial lending and the common approach of utilizing a 30 mortgage.  This project contemplates a $3,000,000 public incentive, repayable over those thirty years.  Within that period, the City will receive between $3,200,000 and $4,000,000 of new tax revenue (excluding amounts paid to other taxing districts under existing intergovernmental agreements).  Community wide, the City and other taxing districts stand to gain between $8,000,000 and $12,000,000 over that same period.  By way of contrast, the properties are presently valued at a lower valuation than they were 30 years ago, and only generate $33,000 of property tax per year.

Fact Seven:  The project will be adequately served by parking.

Numerous reviews of the available parking in the central business district have shown that the City has adequate parking available.  Even during peak events, the City has available parking within a short walking radius of the downtown.  Further, while current zoning codes do not require the developer to provide parking, the developer would both be adding 40-45 new parking spaces, and agreeing to permit the parking area to be used as a part of a future parking deck if the City later had a need for structured parking.

Fact Eight:  The parties will work to minimize impact on existing businesses.

With the deterioration of several of the structures, the unfortunate fact is that some demolition will have to occur, regardless of this project.  With this project, the demolition will lead to new construction and benefit to the community.  Without this project, the demolition will simply generate more vacant lots in the downtown.  The demolition and construction will undoubtedly have an impact on downtown traffic patterns and access to the sidewalks immediately adjacent to the property.  However, the City and developer will work to mitigate that impact, and the project will generate benefit to surrounding properties and businesses.

Fact Nine:  The project has been exhaustively reviewed and makes financial sense.

Some have suggested that this project requires due diligence, and the City agrees—a project with an incentive request of this nature requires careful review.  To that end, the City has completed the most detailed staff review of an incentive request that has ever been completed in the history of the City.  Moreover, the City has shared the results of that analysis publicly, including the detailed calculations underlying each assertion.  Further, the City has retained an independent, third party consultant to review the developer’s pro forma and financial assumptions and to make a recommendation on the viability of the project and legitimacy of the incentive request. That analysis supports the City’s conclusion that the project will generate an incredibly positive return on investment, community wide.  More specifically, the analysis shows that the project requires the public incentive in order to be possible, given the challenges that the site poses.  As proposed, even if the City Council gives preliminary approval, the project will still undergo further review once final plans are prepared.

Fact Ten:  The City is working on an expedited timeline and to allow the potential of this development to be realized.

The City is cognizant of criticism that is sometimes leveled at all units of government, that government bureaucracy moves too slowly and can hinder private development.  In this case, the project involves interlocking timelines on the contracts to purchase five separate parcels of property.  The developer was fortunate enough to be able to get all of the properties under contract with simultaneous review periods, and if this project is to occur, the timeline for initial consideration and conceptual approval has to be expedited.  Notwithstanding that expedited timeline, the project will be reviewed at three separate public meetings before even conceptual approval is granted.