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Long-vacant buildings on DeKalb's north side 'impediment' to development, officials say

City of DeKalb seeks resident input on plan to demolish former Edgebrook Manor Apartments

A City of DeKalb tent is set up in front of the old Edgebrook Manor Apartment Complex at 912 Edgebrook Drive Thursday in DeKalb. The city was asking nearby residents for their input as to what to do with the property after it is demolished. The building has sat vacant since 2014 after it was condemned for major structural issues.
A City of DeKalb tent is set up in front of the old Edgebrook Manor Apartment Complex at 912 Edgebrook Drive Thursday in DeKalb. The city was asking nearby residents for their input as to what to do with the property after it is demolished. The building has sat vacant since 2014 after it was condemned for major structural issues.

DeKALB – Joanne Rouse said an environmental inspection team went inside 912 Edgebrook Drive in April and had to wear hazmat suits to inspect the dilapidated, long vacant property.

The City of DeKalb purchased the former Edgebrook Manor Apartment complex in December of 2017, with the intent to demolish it.

“It’d been vacant for a long time before that,” Rouse, community services coordinator for the city, said Thursday, standing outside the property. “Numerous code violations. It has roof leaks which has caused mold inside, asbestos. It’s a very pricey demolition. The city acquired it with the intent of demolishing it. But in years of tight budgets, it’s a pretty big bill.”

The price tag sits right now at about $350,000, she said. Federal funding from the city’s Community Development Block Grant through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is set to pay for $250,000 of that, with the remaining $100,000 from city funds if approved.

Rouse stood under a City of DeKalb tent with Jason Blumenthal, management analyst for the city, Thursday in an attempt to invite residents to share input on the plan.

No one wondered over as of about 5 p.m., however. The city will next hold a public hearing at a future city council meeting to try and gauge further resident input.

For residents of the neighborhood and those who wish to send comment on the demolition plan, email Rouse at joanne.rouse@cityofdekalb.com.

Demolition, which would include razing the building, filling in the basement, grading and seeding the lot, would be done within the fiscal year of the grant – so by March 2021 hopefully, Rouse said.

In February, the city council put forward plans to use grant money from the Community Development Block Grant for the demolition of the 47-unit building, built in the 50s.

It’s not the first time the city has set its sights on taking down the old building. At one point, the Annie Glidden North Revitalization Plan organizers eyed the space for a community center.

Edgebrook Manor Apartment Complex was condemned in 2014 because of numerous safety violations. The city purchased the property in 2017, amid divisive public push back because of its $190,000 price tag and the $300,000-plus asbestos abatement and demolition costs that went with it. A driving force behind the push was the city’s desire to continue revitalization efforts in the Annie Glidden North neighborhood.

Rouse said that idea to put the building into use for the revitalization plan has not come to fruition because the cost to rehab the building would far outweigh any investment.

“The building was assessed and appraised, and all the data we got back says that the cost to rehab this property is well over a million dollars to try to fix this,” she said.

She said changes to the city’s residential zoning codes over the years has also limited the amount of units that would not be allowed in a space that size: if a developer were to rebuild a new apartment building on the lot, they would only be able to fit 13 units instead of the 47 currently there, she said.

Thus far, no one has come knocking.

“No one’s had any particularly interest in renovating the property, mostly because the cost of maintenance far exceeds what you’d be able to do here,” Rouse said. “Part of the reason for us being int he neighborhood today is we’re trying to get resident input about how they feel about the notion, and suggestions for what they’d like to see in the future.”

Rouse called the vacant dilapidated building an “impediment” to surrounding properties and development in the neighborhood.

Down the street lies another long-vacant building, the former Campus Cinemas, 1015 Blackhawk Road, owned by Pete Occhipinti, who has over the years petitioned multiple times for a special-use permit to revamp the single-story 15,200-square-foot building. The city denied his request.

Back in September 2016, city officials recommended the commission deny giving a recommendation to the city council for approval of the redevelopment, for a number of reasons, including safety concerns about adding two more stories onto an already feeble structure, as well as parking concerns.

Notably, the roof of the Campus Cinemas building collapsed in November 2017, according to a previous Daily Chronicle report.

On Thursday, Blumenthal said the city of DeKalb remains in ongoing litigations with the Campus Cinemas owner, regarding code violations in the property.

“That case is active and ongoing,” Blumenthal said. “With COVID currently courts have obviously been shut down so we are waiting next steps on that. I won’t get into the specifics but I can say there’s a long list of code violations.”

DeKalb County court records show the case, opened Nov. 29, 2017, is expected to go before Judge Waller July 17 at 10:30 a.m.

“From the public’s perspective, they always just want you to take that building and get rid of it but you have to understand that’s private property,” Rouse said. “You wouldn’t want somebody to go into your house and say I’m taking your house and knocking it over. You have to give everybody their day in court. It’s a process.”

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