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Letter: Preserve Our Neighborhoods shines light on hidden dealings

Published: Wednesday, May 28, 2014 11:57 p.m. CDT

To the Editor:

As a resident and rental property owner in the Ellwood Historic Neighborhood, the change of property use in our neighborhood is of extreme concern to me. The Preserve Our Neighborhoods group held a news conference Wednesday, which I attended.

The conference revealed documents with over 50 pages of detail concerning the formation of a for-profit corporation with explicit purposes of acquiring most private homes and rental properties on Harrison Street, John Street and parts of Locust Street and College Avenue for rental operations and redevelopment. The word redevelopment in this context means to tear down and rebuild something else.

The major parties to the proposed agreement were two banks, a local contractor, the City of DeKalb and Northern Illinois University.

I want to thank the Preserve Our Neighborhoods group and its spokesperson, Misty Haji-Sheikh, for shining a light on these previously hidden dealings.

These were exchanges about which city leadership has not been forthright or transparent. It appears the city and NIU have quickly backpedaled since their considerations were exposed yesterday. The mayor only admits that informal discussions were held, and NIU now denies any interest in pursuing participation.

What is very disturbing about all of this is that the mindset is still there.

The city and NIU have not acknowledged that it is wrong to tear apart the fabric of a historic neighborhood through commercial change of use and redevelopment. Changes that benefit new investors with visions neither requested nor vetted by current property owners and residents.

Last summer the city leadership rammed the “city center” plans through council in an omnibus bill without a second reading. It was passed without good community input or review.

City leadership has been promoting that particular council approval as a basis and authority to press actions for what have been dubbed “Communiversity Commons.” Actions that would most likely level a historic neighborhood.

The City Council, our governmental policymaking body, needs to put the brakes on this type of runaway government. Council needs to direct the leadership to work with present stakeholders to preserve and improve a historic neighborhood which is well over 100 years old.

Preserve Our Neighborhoods is a proactive group of citizens with a solid list of concerns and solutions for a better neighborhood and a better city. Our city leadership will do well to listen to some of our local experts, who also happen to pay taxes and vote.

Jim Morel

DeKalb

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