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Council OKs grant to help give Fargo Theatre new life

The Fargo Theatre in the 600 block of East Lincoln Highway in DeKalb will get new windows and heating thanks to help from a $25,000 grant approved by the city council Monday. Chronicle photo RENEE MESSACAR

DeKALB - An Elgin couple with a background in home renovation got a boost Monday for their multiyear project to inject new life into a downtown strip of commercial property dating to the early 1900s. The city council approved a $25,000 grant as part of a $65,000 project to replace the second-floor windows and heating systems in the approximately 75-year-old Fargo Theatre building, 621-649 E. Lincoln Highway. The art-deco-style building is perhaps the most prominent one in the 600 block of East Lincoln Highway. It and the adjacent building on the northwest corner of Lincoln and Seventh Street are owned by Kris and Andrew Besic. "It's really kind of been neglected," Kris Besic said of the property. She and her husband plan to bring the nine-unit rooming house on the second floor of the Fargo into compliance with local codes and to renovate the storefronts along the block to attract retailers. The Besics expect the whole project to take about two years. It is the couple's first venture into renovating commercial property. While the city's grant will help, Kris Besic acknowledged that the work won't be cheap. "It's going to be astronomical, but I don't have the figures to quote you on," she said. The Fargo was built sometime between 1928 and 1930, Besic said, and the building on the northwest corner of Seventh and Lincoln dates to 1905. The Fargo has not been used as a theater for several years, according to information provided by the city, and is now being used as storage space. The $25,000 city grant comes through the city's tax increment financing program, and it was approved before the council considered it by the Architectural Improvement Review Committee, a group that makes recommendations on requests for financial assistance to renovate downtown buildings. The AIRC reports to Main Street DeKalb and the city. "The city of DeKalb has been great to work with," Andrew Besic said after the council approved the funding. Also Monday: --The council amended a speed limit ordinance to reduce the speed from 35 mph to 30 mph on North Annie Glidden Road between Lucinda Avenue and Varsity Boulevard. The change means the speed from Varsity all the way south to Lincoln Highway will be 30 mph. Alderman Dave Baker, 6th Ward, advocated lowering it to 30 mph all the way north to Hillcrest Drive, and the council agreed to have city engineers study the idea. City Engineer Joel Maurer said any decision to lower a speed limit should be backed up with data to show that it's necessary. If not, "you're opening yourself up to being contested" and to accusations that a "speed trap" has been created, he said. --The council voted to continue a downtown cleanup program that employs two part-time workers to clear rubbish, pull weeds, shovel snow and do other basic maintenance on an as-needed basis in the downtown area along East Lincoln Highway. The action keeps the workers on the job through March at a cost to the city of about $4,000. Chris Rickert can be reached at crickert@pulitzer.net.

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