DeKALB – One of the first steps toward a $7.5 million downtown redevelopment came through during a public hearing Wednesday when the city Planning and Zoning Commission recommended a rezoning request to the City Council that would allow for construction.
The request was approved by a 6-0 vote. Commissioner Deborah Nier was absent.
A petition from Cornerstone DeKalb LLC sought to rezone properties at 122 S. First St. and 112-118, 122 and 124 E. Lincoln Highway from a central business district to a planned development commercial district.
John Pappas, the principal developer of the project, would seek to tear down the buildings, one of which is the vacant Otto’s building, in order to build a four-story apartment building with commercial space for retailers on the first floor.
The sites are home to Mediterraneo Bar and Grill and Barb City Bagels, both of which have relocation arrangements with the developer if the project moves forward.
Parking was one of the main issues raised by the public since there would be 40 private parking spaces in the 51-unit complex and a rise in downtown customers from the first-floor businesses.
Janell Tempel of DeKalb requested that the commission consider additional parking options.
“I don’t think we’re giving the retail shops much of a chance,” Tempel said. “We’re already over-saturated with parking, and I think this is a recipe for disaster. People won’t come if they can’t park.”
Jim Hovis, who has fought to preserve historic properties in DeKalb, said the Otto’s building is worth tearing down.
“The developer has proposed a magnificent site,” Hovis said. “I’m concerned about the parking, too, but through services like Uber, you can get a ride for four or five dollars in DeKalb.”
Pappas said he is not worried about any issues involving parking since he has not encountered such problems in other properties that he owns with minimal parking options.
“There are less businesses downtown than ever before, and I think we have bigger issues to worry about, so let’s get the bodies downtown and then worry about addressing parking then,” Pappas said.
Another consideration from the public was the use of marketing and signage to communicate to residents that other businesses still will be operating during the redevelopment process.
This idea received favorable reviews from commission members, including Chairwoman Christina Atherton.
Mayor John Rey said during Monday’s City Council meeting, where an overview of the project was presented, that the council could act on the redevelopment plan during its Feb. 27 meeting.
Pappas said that once he gets city approval, he could begin demolition of the Lincoln Highway buildings within 30 days.
The First Street property would remain until the apartment building is completed to allow Barb City Bagels to continue to operate out of it. Once Barb City Bagels moves into its new location within the first floor of the building, the building would be demolished to create surface parking for apartment residents.