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University Plaza plan meets resistance

Landlords say changes will strain the competitive rental market

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014 10:41 p.m. CDT
(Danielle Guerra – dguerra@shawmedia.com)
NIU senior Ben Read helps unload a car Tuesday with his girlfriend Mary Bajek, a NIU graduate student, to help move her into University Plaza. Bajek was able to secure the last open female room in the tower since University Plaza is keeping the other tower open to start renovations pending DeKalb city council approval.
University Plaza, a private residence hall at Crane Drive and Annie Glidden Road is steps away from Northern Illinois University campus, has proposed renovation plans that the DeKalb City Council will vote on at its Sept. 8 meeting.

DeKALB – DeKalb landlords and residents have questions about an Alabama-based developer’s plans to convert University Plaza from private dormitories into modern apartments.

Capstone Real Estate Investments has a contract to purchase the two-tower private dorm at 900 Crane Drive in DeKalb from the Crane family once DeKalb officials approve the project. Renovation would start this fall and end by late next year.

“The common residence apartment-style option will be the most highly amenitized option of its kind in this market,” Capstone representative John Chapman said. “Nothing like this currently exists.”

DeKalb aldermen Monday voted to receive and file the plans, but the project will need final approval Sept. 8 before the developers can start construction.

Five members of the DeKalb Area Rental Association spoke out against the development during Monday’s council meeting. The landlords questioned why they weren’t consulted, some contending the development will create problems in an already crowded rental market.

“What you’re really doing is impacting the surrounding properties by stripping away potential tenants,” said Greg Tumulty, property manager for Star Properties.

The plan would reduce the number of potential residents in the space by more than half, from a potential 1,100 tenants to 496. Residents would have to provide proof they are students to live in the facility.

Because the apartments would have kitchens, the developers could remove the cafeteria. They also plan to create private study rooms, a coffee bar and conference rooms. Residents also will have access to a renovated gym, as well as a swimming pool, sauna and locker rooms.

“We think through this redevelopment, we will be increasing the stature of this particular development,” Chapman said. “But it reverberates throughout the community [and] has a potential to cause others to raise their game.”

The changes feel a little overwhelming to graduate student Mary Bajek, 25, of Naperville, who has lived at University Plaza for two years. She said she chose University Plaza because its location near campus and the ability to bond with fellow residents.

“I’m just a little worried if we’ll still be able to build a community,” Bajek said about the pending conversion. “I’ve lived in an apartment and I liked it, but people are closer here.”

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