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Improvements to downtown unveiled Wednesday in DeKalb

DeKALB – Residents can get a sneak peek of what downtown DeKalb could look like in the next five years.

Re:New DeKalb and the city of DeKalb are hosting a public forum Wednesday at O’Leary’s Restaurant & Pub that will feature draft exhibits and illustrations depicting the potential future of downtown DeKalb as envisioned by the SAA Design Group.

Ryan Garcia, senior planner for the Wisconsin-based civic planning firm, said the company used the feedback it received during a February community stakeholders meeting in DeKalb to develop the future look of downtown.

He said the focus was primarily on connectivity with downtown through additional pathways, adding family-friendly attractions in vacant spaces and engaging the Northern Illinois University campus in a major way.

“NIU is an economic and cultural engine,” Garcia said. “That is a world-class university literally down the street that can be leveraged.”

Garcia would not divulge the details of the displays, but encouraged community members to see the proposals during the event from 4 to 6 p.m. A formal presentation of the plan will be given at 5:15 p.m.

Lindsey Engelsman, marketing and special events coordinator for Re:New DeKalb, said she was excited with what she saw in the proposals, but added it was important for downtown stakeholders to voice their opinions.

“The SAA definitely used the input that was given at the downtown summit to formulate this plan for the next five years,” Engelsman said. “I think it will be very well received.”

Engelsman said when the group and city officials believe the plan has enough support, it will be presented to the DeKalb City Council for approval.

Garcia said elements from the unfinished 2006 downtown improvement plan such as expanded parking, screening and buffering the railroad tracks and residential development around the downtown area could be addressed.

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