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Plan looks into DeKalb’s future

Parking structure, shuttle service among ideas to develop downtown

DeKALB – A new parking structure and a university-to-city shuttle service could be coming to downtown DeKalb sometime in the future.

DeKalb aldermen will weigh in on the revitalization of downtown DeKalb with a new comprehensive plan at their meeting tonight. The plan, which was devised by city officials and local business owners, details different ways to develop an area that stretches from the Kiswaukee River to Seventh Street, and goes north past Locust Street and south to Franklin Street.

The DeKalb City Council’s discussion tonight will focus around the plan. However the vote will not approve the various construction projects
or programs detailed in the plan.

“It’s basically taking a look at the 2007 redevelopment plan for downtown and updating it with current market conditions,” said Derek Hiland, the city’s principal planner. “Establishing a new path to move forward. A new vision.”

The plan is light on specifics, such as when to begin studying the city’s supply of parking lots or creating a shuttle that connects Northern Illinois University and the downtown city center. No specific costs are listed either, although Interim City Manager Rudy Espiritu estimated them to be in the millions.

“What we would try to do is develop partnerships with private business, the university ... to help develop those plans,” Espiritu said.

The city of DeKalb is listed as the primary entity responsible for instituting many of these construction projects and code updates, although Re:New DeKalb, the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce and NIU are listed as partners on many of them.

One project would create a “Communiversity Commons,” stretching from the Kishwaukee River to First Street. Officials describe the current set-up as being “severely out of step with the vision and character of DeKalb City Center.”

“It is ambitious,” Espiritu said. “It is something we very much want to add to make it more pedestrian friendly, to link to the university.”

Another would see the establishment of shuttle bus loop between the NIU campus and downtown DeKalb. NIU has at least two daytime bus routes that take students through the city center, although city officials described it as impractical in their plan outline.

City officials are also thinking about expanding parking in downtown DeKalb. The plan calls for studying its current supply, as explore the possibility of creating a parking garage.

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