Little retail space available in downtown DeKalb

Published: Monday, Dec. 16, 2013 5:30 a.m.CDT
(Monica Maschak –
Line cook Xan Peldonia slices bread in preparation for a holiday party Saturday at Faranda’s in DeKalb.

DeKALB – Ducky’s Formalwear is looking to move from its current location, but has no plans to leave downtown DeKalb, confirmed manager Diane Hosey.

“We’ve run into issues with a building we’ve been looking at, and won’t know anything until the end of March,” Hosey said.

Other downtown business owners, Bill and Joy McMahon of The Lincoln Inn, have invested additional money in the community with the opening of Faranda’s, a banquet hall in the former DeKalb Clinic Annex at 302 Grove St.

“DeKalb has been a great community to do business in,” Bill McMahon said. “There’s great grassroots support here. People want to support their downtown.”

The Lincoln Inn also provides catering, and McMahon said it was through the catering business that he discovered a void in the community – banquet hall space. McMahon received a low-interest loan of about $340,000 from TIF funds to help renovate the building.

And he’s hoping that as customers use his banquet hall, they also will take time to explore downtown.

There is a lot to explore, according to Matt Duffy, executive director of the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce.

“There are events every night and all weekend long,” Duffy said, listing theater options, shopping and restaurants. In the past few months, the downtown area has seen new retail establishments opening including Sozo Market, MCR Framing and Poppy Seed Primitives.

With the opening of those businesses, Roger Hopkins, the city’s economic development consultant said, “There’s not a lot of open retail space available downtown.”

“Of course, there aren’t a lot of changes in retail around the holidays,” Duffy said. “The status quo is not a bad thing, even though there’s always the desire for more, new and different.”

Hopkins said he has fielded inquiries about Golden Thai Jasmine, 251 E. Lincoln Highway, and has talked with Subway franchisees about the former Sawyer Imports at 460 E. Lincoln Highway.

DeKalb 1st Ward Alderman David Jacobson owns the former DeKalb Clinic on Grove Street, and said he is ready to lease space.

“At this point, I’m looking for tenants,” Jacobson said. The total rentable space is about 30,000 square feet, but he said he would be willing to build to suit from 850 square feet or more.

“The old immediate care side [at the corner of Grove and Second streets] is about 4,000 square feet and still suitable for a medical clinic,” Jacobson said.

DeKalb Mayor John Rey said TIF funds have been used primarily for stimulating business activity by enhancing infrastructure and making streetscrape improvements.

“It’s important to acknowledge the importance of TIF funds is to put public stimulus into the economy to foster investment from private development,” Rey said.

Although the recently-announced city center project committee has not met yet, Rey is hoping it can assist with future development. In the meantime, Rey said he’s hoping other private development, such as the Mike Mooney property on Fourth Street, can gain some traction.

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

“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.

Regardless of future development, McMahon said, “You could come into downtown DeKalb for a reasonable rent, and start up a business. If you have the passion, this is the place to be.”

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