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Local

DeKalb City Council OKs building sale, TIF funds for fifth Pappas project site

After concerns over density, loss of green space, Pappas amends plans for former city hall

DeKALB – After a divided city commission and neighbors opposed to its density and loss of open space, the proposed luxury apartment complex by Pappas Development for the former DeKalb City Hall site was cut down by about 25% in size.

The DeKalb City Council voted, 8-0, to approve final plans for the proposed Johann Executive Suites project during its regular meeting Monday at the DeKalb Public Library. All City Council members were present at the meeting.

The building now will be sold to Pappas for $600,000, with the caveat that it be demolished by Dec. 31 and completed by 2022. Members of the council also approved a $750,000 tax increment finance incentive, pending final approval of the architectural plans.

The original development plans for a 76-unit, four-building complex proposed for the former Municipal Building, 200 S. Fourth St., were preliminarily approved by the City Council in August pending development approval by the city council following its Planning and Zoning Commission meeting. The commission was split 3-3 on the matter, with some calling for changes to the project’s density amid concern brought forth by neighbors at the meeting. Others were concerned about the plot of land used on site by the DeKalb County Community Gardens.

According to city documents, Foti Pappas, vice president of Pappas Development, met with concerned neighbors and revised the plans accordingly, which now propose 57 units and preserves the land used by the community gardens.

Rita McNatt, who also attended the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting earlier this month regarding the project, affirmed that developers John and Foti Pappas met with neighbors about their concerns. The resident of the 200 block of South Fifth Street said there’s a lot to be said about her and spouse Jon, as residents living across the street from the project, being in agreement with the Pappas men for the revised plan.

“John and Foti [Pappas] listened to what we’ve said and we are in full support of it,” Rita McNatt said.

Jon McNatt said he agreed that John Pappas made an effort to address neighbors’ concerns.

“He’s bent over backwards, I think, we think, in this design change – Hell, he dropped one whole building from the plan, so he went from four buildings to three buildings,” Jon McNatt said. “That’s a big commitment to us from [Pappas], so we fully support it.”

The $7.5 million development previously won City Council approval.

Residents also expressed concerns about the city providing more TIF funds than what the building is being sold for during the Monday meeting. Other concerns brought up during the meeting included shared hallways and fitness centers in what is looking like a longer pandemic than originally anticipated.

Ward 4 Alderman Greg Perkins said he commended residents in the ward for speaking up about their concerns related to the project, influencing the process and actually changing the outcome.

“It’s a beautiful thing to see – kudos,” Perkins said.

Pappas, who attended the Monday City Council meeting, was not immediately available for additional comment following the City Council votes.

The Johann project would be added to a portfolio of four other similar developments, the third proposed within 16 months of each other.

Cornerstone DeKalb, at First and Lincoln Highway, has 51 luxury apartments on the top three floors of the building, and the ground floor houses commercial space including Tavern on Lincoln, Barb City Bagels. Across the street is Plaza DeKalb, a four-story, mixed-use apartment complex at 203, 223, and 229 E. Lincoln Highway. The building’s ground level was expected to have a street-level Mediterranean specialty grocer, although nothing yet inhabits the space.

The third development, Agora Tower – a $13.8 million project which was awarded $3 million in TIF funds from the city in June 2019 – is being built on the grounds of a now-demolished Mooney Car Dealership, which was formerly the oldest barbed wire factory in DeKalb, at the corner of North Fourth and Locust streets since 1881.

Demolition began last November, and the $13.8 million project will take 2 1/2 years to complete. The four-story tower will feature 94 high-end apartment units with retail and office space on the first floor.

A fourth project, Isaac Executive Suites, 2675 Sycamore Road, was approved in June and lies outside of any TIF district boundaries with 59 one-bedroom units with shorter leases, about 9 months, for traveling professionals.

• Daily Chronicle local government reporter Katie Finlon contributed to this story.

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