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ShoDeen, DeKalb officials to discuss stalled ‘NB&T Square’ project

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013 5:30 a.m. CST

DeKALB – ShoDeen Construction President Dave Patzelt is ready to restart discussions with city leaders about what he should do with a key DeKalb property.

The parcel, which currently holds vacant buildings and signs promising future development, sits on the south side of Lincoln Highway between First and Pearl streets. It’s in the heart of the “Communiversity Commons” area city leaders want to develop as a bridge between downtown DeKalb and Northern Illinois University.

After DeKalb City Council members approved ShoDeen’s plan for a 1,592-home subdivision on the city’s northwest side Monday, Patzelt and DeKalb city staff said they are ready to talk about the downtown property again.

When first proposed in 2008, the plan for the property was dubbed the “NB&T Square” and called for six mixed-use commercial buildings to be anchored by the new bank building. However, NB&T’s 8,000-square-foot building is the only development that has come to fruition there.

Patzelt might present a variety of concepts for the space to plan commissioners, council members and other advisers in December or January, interim City Manager Rudy Espiritu said.

“We’re seeking direction from the City Council as to what, ideally, they want on that property,” Espiritu said.

Past discussions about the property, which is seven acres including the NB&T bank building, have been peppered with conflicting ideas.

Downtown redevelopment plans have called for mixed-use buildings there, but Patzelt’s plan about three years ago to build 289 apartments above commercial space fizzled. Some council members don’t want more rental housing, but Patzelt said banks are reluctant to fund projects with condominiums.

When he suggested building commercial space without housing, city leaders pointed to the downtown redevelopment plan favoring more housing – and the foot traffic that comes with it.

Other issues have to do with the funding. Part of the property is included in a tax increment financing district, a special taxing area that funnels taxes associated with rising property values toward public improvements.

Patzelt said most redevelopment projects aren’t profitable without using these funds to remove dilapidated buildings or improve existing infrastructure, but some council members are cautious about sinking money into a project that has gone nowhere for years.

Sixth Ward Alderman Dave Baker is one of them. At Monday’s council meeting, he reiterated his opposition to new rental housing targeting NIU students and to using TIF money for the property.

“I can’t think why I would change my mind,” Baker said.

But 7th Ward Alderwoman Monica O’Leary said she’d appreciate hearing about the rejected proposals because she wasn’t in office when they were first discussed.

Third Ward Alderwoman Kristen Lash pushed Patzelt to clean up the existing buildings on the property if a development isn’t imminent, but Patzelt said clearing the buildings could prevent him from pursuing TIF money there because those districts are only allowed in blighted areas.

“Yes, we’d like to develop them,” Patzelt said Tuesday in a phone interview. “There’s some tough issues.”

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