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Editorials

Our view: DeKalb had to buy Edgebrook apartments

The DeKalb City Council’s unanimous vote Monday to purchase a derelict 47-unit apartment building at 912 Edgebrook Drive drew some criticism Monday, with much of it centering on the council’s decisive action to buy the property.

Some expressed regret that the city was buying the property without a plan in place for its future, or worried that the $192,000 purchase price, combined with more than $300,000 for asbestos abatement and demolition costs, will put a dent in the city’s finances.

Our greatest regret is that there are not 10 more apartment houses for sale in that area for the city to buy and reduce the density of rental housing.

In recent months, we’ve watched with concern as police have investigated reports of gunshots in the North Annie Glidden corridor, particularly in the densely populated residential area east of Glidden.

Recently, it’s seemed that not a weekend goes by without reports of gunshots in the area – fired at people in parking lots, into groups of people, at vehicles, at people who shoot back.

The issue in the neighborhood is no mystery: There were 7,000 fewer students enrolled at Northern Illinois University this fall than there were in 2006, but roughly the same amount of rental housing.

While the vast majority of nonstudents now living in the rental space are law-abiding people, there clearly is a criminal element. Police have confirmed that at least some of the recent shooting incidents are linked to street gang activity.

Gangs bring many ills to communities, including increased street crime, but also increased rates of juvenile delinquency among the children they recruit and increased drug activity as they seek to earn money.

City officials simply cannot sit by and allow this trend to continue, not if the university – and the local economy that depends upon it – is to recover.

The city could have consulted with advisory boards before voting to buy the property, but the reality is there was no other prudent course of action. The city can now exercise some control over what becomes of the property.

What will the city do with it?

The building, which has been uninhabitable since 2014, should be demolished as soon as possible to make it unavailable to squatters and wildlife.

It has been noted that the area lacks amenities that families and children now living there need, such as parks – that’s a possibility. It also could simply be converted into a parking lot or other passive use, at least until something better comes along.

Now would be a good time to involve community members in the plans for the future of the land.

Had the city not stepped in to buy the land, however, another apartment building could have sprung up there. That’s not what the area needs right now.

Buying the Edgebrook property was the right call.

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