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Letter: Changes need not involve neighborhoods

Published: Thursday, May 1, 2014 8:53 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, May 1, 2014 10:24 p.m. CDT

To the Editor:

Approximately 100 people who live, own property or are interested in the area immediately adjacent to Northern Illinois University gathered in the sanctuary of the Congregational Church on First Street in DeKalb. We were all there to hear the university’s plan for the residential area directly east of the university and known as the Ellwood historic neighborhood, the Normal Road area and the “North 40,” the large green space east of Anderson Hall, the engineering building and Barsema Hall.

Some of us have lived in the area long enough to remember the university’s acquisition of the family home at the northwest corner of Normal and Lincoln Highway. The Arndt family lost the home they had lived in for three generations because the university wanted it and took it. A bold plan to redevelop the John Street area surfaced a number of years ago that involved city planning. That plan would replace the “blight” of John Street with a hotel and commercial/retail ground level and rentals on the upper levels. So when we heard of the bold plans to close Normal to vehicular traffic, the plan to put housing in the “North 40,” the bold plan to clean up the blight on John and Harrison streets, we became nervous.

We heard last night that the 10-page handout we received and that had been previously posted in the student center was just a thesis, complete with detailed maps and colored drawings, and it was the architects that thought housing for retired professors and alumni might be a good idea.

We heard that the plan for closing Normal was only south of Lucinda. However, the bold plan for the “Communiversity Commons,” included an electric trolley to ferry students from the university to downtown DeKalb and would run down College Avenue every four minutes. Bear in mind the Huskie Bus line goes from the university to downtown DeKalb now.

We think that the retention of students and the ability to attract quality students who want to graduate from Northern Illinois University, as I did in 1977 with a M.F.A., has nothing to do with the acquisition and or manipulation of the privately held homes and properties adjacent to the university.

Sharon Smith


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