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DeKalb mayor to pick project management group

Published: Monday, Nov. 11, 2013 11:06 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Nov. 11, 2013 11:20 p.m. CDT

DeKALB – A group of local leaders will be assigned the task of coming up with a new direction for an underutilized part of DeKalb at today’s DeKalb City Council meeting.

Mayor John Rey plans to appoint himself along with 10 others to an ad hoc committee called the DeKalb City Center Project Management Team.

“This committee will oversee the components of the next phase of downtown development,” Rey said. “My goal is to see them strike public and private partnerships wherever those opportunities may exist.”

Committee members will include top city officials, leaders at local banks, foundations and NIU officials.

Rey and Northern Illinois University President Doug Baker announced plans at the Aug. 1 state of the city address to work together to make downtown DeKalb more engaging and attractive.

Rey said it will be up to the committee to review and prioritize plans for the proposed DeKalb City Center. Initially, the focus will be on the area of Lincoln Highway between the NIU lagoon and First Street, he said.

“One of the projects that I’m sure will come to the table early on is the Pearl Street Shodeen development on Lincoln Highway,” Rey said.

Committee appointees will be Rudy Espiritu, DeKalb’s interim city manager; Rachel Xidis, Ellwood House Association board of directors; Mark Smirz, president of the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce; Tim Lehan, Lehan Drugs and Medical Supplies; Michael Cullen, National Bank & Trust Company; Frank Roberts, Castle Bank; Jerry Blakemore, NIU legal counsel; Jennifer Groce, NIU Center for Governmental Studies; Bill Nicklas, NIU Community Affairs; and Sandra Polanco, NIU, Affirmative Action.

Rey said he has asked Roberts to lead the committee.

“Our charge from the mayor is to prioritize projects and initiatives within the updated City Center plan, and make recommendations to the council for the continued redevelopment of downtown,” Roberts said.

Although he said no deadlines have been imposed, Roberts hopes to schedule the committee’s first meeting in early December.

“I want to make sure we get a copy of the City Center plan to all the members to begin discussions,” Roberts said. “I just want to keep moving on this in a reasonable time frame.”

Smirz said the committee was a good way to encourage cooperation among NIU officials and city leaders.

“We have a responsibility to make every effort to engage NIU with the city,” Smirz said. “I think this is a tremendous opportunity for the city and the university to work together.”

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