DeKALB – The strengths and weaknesses of the 522-acre Annie Glidden North neighborhood were evaluated Wednesday during the first of four community meetings to help plan to revitalize the blighted area.
Chicago-based Camiros planning firm was approved in August to carry out a four-phase plan costing no more than $83,550 and lasting through April to make the affected neighborhoods become more desirable, walkable, safe and economically vibrant places to live.
As about 140 audience members entered Westminster Presbyterian Church, they were asked to mark on a map which parts of the neighborhood they think are the best, and which need the most work. Most people pegged University Village Apartments and Ridgebrook Court Apartments.
A handful of members of the recently appointed task force were in attendance, as well as 1st Ward Alderman David Jacobson and 2nd Ward Alderman Bill Finucane, who were appointed as council liaisons to the group. Finucane said there were not enough members for the meeting to be in violation of the Open Meetings Act.
Camiros Senior Associate Adam Rosa said this plan is not something the city will be implementing on its own, so it’s important that all community members get behind the effort.
“What we are seeking to do is create a guide for community action and empowerment,” Rosa said.
Attendees were split into tables where they were asked to brainstorm five early action projects whose criteria include short-term implementation, low cost and the ability to be led by the community with some guidance.
A number of members of Northern Illinois University’s Greek community were in attendance and proposed ideas such as access to a bike trail, a smoothie or ice cream shop and a safe basketball or volleyball court.
Other ideas included routine cleanup efforts, better street lighting and better security within rental properties.
Groups then were asked to name five of the most important neighborhood assets and five problems that have such a negative effect that they could spread through the entire neighborhood.
Along with no access to a grocery store or other resources, a common concern was a lack of timely public transportation.
The DeKalb-Sycamore Area Transportation Study is working on a plan to integrate NIU’s Huskie Line with the Voluntary Action Center’s TransVAC bus line to create a more reliable transit system. Finucane said input from the community meeting might be used to help establish service routes in the DSATS plan.
Benjamin McCarty, vice president of NIU’s Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity, said a lack of student assets in the neighborhood is a major problem.
“It’s no secret that enrollment has been down at NIU over the past few years, and that hurts everyone in DeKalb,” McCarty said. “We need to invest in bringing more students here.”
He also proposed a student wellness center in the empty lot on Blackhawk Drive next to the vacant Campus Cinemas building.
Rosa said the next step is to take all of the notes from each table and use them in the second community meeting, which will be in late October or early November. During that meeting, residents can vote on which ideas they want to see the most and then sign up as volunteers to offer future support.
The third and fourth community meetings will be designed to draft a revitalization plan for the neighborhood, which is made up of 9,511 people and 3,755 dwelling units. This will be presented to the DeKalb City Council after the plan concludes in April.
Residents wishing to provide feedback before the next meeting can contact management analyst Aaron Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org.