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Ellwood residents want DeKalb to convert neighborhood homes

Published: Friday, May 10, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

DeKALB – The city soon could buy multifamily houses to convert them into single-family homes in the Ellwood Historic Neighborhood, which is northwest of downtown DeKalb.

DeKalb aldermen will consider Monday whether the city’s tax increment financing dollars should be used to reduce the density in this neighborhood.

City Manager Mark Biernacki said this is a policy question for the aldermen to decide, especially because this program would be operated at a loss. The value of these properties drop once they’ve been converted, city documents state.

“On each individual instance ... is that loss, if you will, worth the overall public improvement of the area,” Biernacki said.

Officials believe the city will lose $45,000 per house conversion. They are estimating buying a house at $150,000 and renovating it at $75,000, then reselling it at $180,000. Biernacki said the program would be voluntary.

The subdivision covers the area from Locust Street to the Kishwaukee River, and from First Street to John Street, within the city’s 5th Ward. Within the past few years, residents have formed a group dedicated to restoring the neighborhood.

“Of all our neighborhoods, the people in this neighborhood have been the most active and organized,” Biernacki said.

The Ellwood Historic Neighborhood Group approached the city with this plan. The neighborhood association has long sought to reduce the number of people who live in the neighborhood, Biernacki said.

“Too much density has too much traffic, too many cars parked on lawns,” Biernacki said. “The thinking is: If you reduce density in certain areas, the blight sometimes goes with it.”

Biernacki said the neighborhood group has identified one potential property owner who could participate in this program.

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