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DeKalb aldermen want answers on stalled project

Published: Saturday, March 2, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

(Continued from Page 1)

DeKALB – As ShoDeen and the DeKalb City Council grapple over the future of the planned Irongate development, some aldermen aren’t keen to move until they get answers about another proposed ShoDeen development.

That would be the National Bank & Trust Square the Geneva-based developer touted years ago. So far, the only building to go up there has been the NB&T building at 130 W. Lincoln Highway.

Sixth Ward Alderman Dave Baker described the current upkeep of the rest of the area as “disgraceful,” and said ShoDeen should not expect help from the city. ShoDeen President Dave Patzelt said he needs tax increment financing assistance before he can move forward with the project.

“Until a tax increment financing project is brought to the council, they shouldn’t have been expecting any money,” Baker said.

In 2008, ShoDeen announced its plan to create the “NB&T Square” – a seven-acre, mixed use development along West Lincoln Highway, between Walgreens and Pearl Street. Plans called for 90,000 square feet of retail space and 300,000 square feet of residential space, mostly in the form of condominiums.

The plans generated excitement when they were announced, but the onset of the Great Recession changed everything.

City Council members didn’t like ShoDeen’s subsequent proposal to convert the condos into apartments, DeKalb City Manager Mark Biernacki said. They also voiced disfavor with a strip mall at that spot.

In public comments and in an interview, Patzelt said he doesn’t know what else to build on the property.

“I don’t know what’s left. I need somebody to tell me what you want,” Patzelt said. “I really need them to tell us what they want.”

Patzelt said TIF funds will be an absolute necessity. Because of the location, there are increased challenges and costs related to demolition, construction access, utilities and stormwater.

“It’s cheaper to do development in the green field than it is in the redevelopment zones,” Patzelt said. “Why didn’t the Hampton Inn go in downtown DeKalb? Why didn’t Olive Garden?”

Not helping matters is the current economy, said Roger Hopkins, the city’s economic development consultant. Hopkins said banks will not make loans for a retail construction project that has an uncertain future.

Until the council, developer and a lender can agree, the area likely will stay as it is. However, Biernacki said it was fortunate that the project stalled so early in the process.

“In some regards, both the developer and the council are fortunate that the project never did take off,” said Biernacki, referring to how a completed building would have been affected by a collapsed economy. “We’d have an empty shell.”

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