The pending opening of the new Cornerstone DeKalb building downtown is an encouraging sign of progress, and the DeKalb City Council should be looking for opportunities to keep it going.
Council members agreed to contribute $3 million to Cornerstone’s overall $7.5 million cost, which included demolition of aging buildings near the corner of First Street and Lincoln Highway, including one that had decayed to the point that the city wanted it demolished.
In its place, a new brick building including a bar and grill, bagel shop and nail salon below brand-new one-bedroom apartments will be the gateway to downtown. The first tenants will move into the building in August, building owners said.
Developer John Pappas said there have been more than 180 applicants for the 51 one-bedroom apartments in the Cornerstone building, with rents ranging from $1,275 to $1,450 a month, with utilities, cable and internet, furniture and other amenities included. It is middle-income housing – applicants must earn at least $45,000 a year or, if they are students, have their parents co-sign.
The new residents will spend more than $1 million a year, and possibly more than $2 million at downtown businesses, city officials estimate. The more money is added to the economy in the area, the more businesses will choose to locate there, which in turn can attract more residents, more students and more visitors.
In the spring, Pappas’ second mixed-use residential and commercial project, dubbed Plaza DeKalb, will open, with the help of another $1.9 million in tax increment financing funding. That project will create 23 new apartments downtown, residents of which also will spend money.
With time, these new apartment buildings and TIF funding will spur more redevelopment. The biggest target is roughly 6 acres of vacant land Shodeen Construction owns west of downtown on Lincoln Highway, which is included in a proposal for a new TIF district the city may create.
Shodeen’s earlier plans have been big – and would require a significant public and private investment.
If DeKalb can keep the rebuilding momentum going downtown, however, it may be only a matter of time before that property and others are put to better use.