Residents taking a stroll through downtown DeKalb soon will be treated to a more colorful experience.
Forty planters were placed throughout DeKalb and the Northern Illinois University campus Tuesday morning as part of an initiative spearheaded by the Citizens’ Community Enhancement Commission to beautify the area.
The three-foot-tall planters feature a shrub surrounded by colorful flowers such as surfinia red petunias, snow princess and superbena royale iced cherry. Logos from NIU, the city and Proven Winners, which provided the plants and soil, are displayed on each container.
NIU and the city each have 20 planters, which can be seen at spots such as outside of City Hall, along Lincoln Highway, along Annie Glidden Road and scattered throughout campus.
Cohen Barnes, who serves on the Citizens’ Community Enhancement Commission, said the idea has been a year in the making. He said the “Communiversity in Bloom” initiative is another way to add to the momentum he has seen residents and local businesses build toward revitalizing the community.
“I’ve been in this town all my life, and I’m so amazed how every year this community is stepping it up,” Barnes said. “There are so many great things happening here. I’m fired up. I am absolutely proud to be a citizen of DeKalb.”
Barnes hopes the planters are the first step toward applying for the America in Bloom competition, which is sponsored by the nonprofit organization that promotes beautification of municipalities through use of landscape and environmental improvements.
He envisions the planters inspiring more community involvement, especially from master gardeners, businesses and organizations.
NIU spokesman Brad Hoey, who is also a member of the commission, said adding the planters is a win for city officials, university members and residents.
“The idea was to bring color and beauty to highly visible areas,” Hoey said. “Everyone contributed to supporting that concept.”
Marshall Dirks, director of marketing with Proven Winners, said the NIU/DeKalb partnership is the largest scale planters project the company has undertook, but it has started similar programs with Chicago businesses.
For DeKalb’s program, the company would pick up planters every October and bring them back each spring, Dirks said. The continuous program comes at a one-time cost of $20,000 that was split evenly between the city and NIU.
“This really brings the city and university together,” Dirks said. “It’s something we’re starting to hear interest about from other mayors.”
The city and university will maintain their own planters, but Proven Winners will replace dead flowers and provide fertilizer treatment when needed.
Assistant City Manager Rudy Espiritu said vandalism is a concern – much like the huskie dog statues from the public art project Huskies on Parade – but he believes people will embrace and respect the planters.
If the project works this year, the city wants to bring in the planters annually for years to come.
“It’s something to look forward to once the spring and summer come,” Espiritu said. “It’s a small piece in helping beautify the area, and to have it as a joint project made it that much more enjoyable and valuable.”