Neighborhood Group Questions Redevelopment Documents

May 28, 2014

A DeKalb neighborhood group held a news conference this morning related to a proposed partnership between NIU, the city, and several local banks. A spokesperson for Preserve Our Neighborhoods says the confidential agreement was sent to the group anonymously. The document outlines the process of buying homes around John and Harrison streets for redevelopment.

Memorandum of Understanding - College Town Partners
Credit WNIJ

According to the proposal, the "neighborhood" is defined as parts of John Street, Harrison Street, Locust Street, and College Avenue. It says, "the Company desires to facilitate a physical connection between NIU, the Historic District, and Downtown DeKalb to improve the tax base and quality of community life for students, faculty, residential and business owners, consistent with NIU's mission."

The revitalization plan includes several phases, including flood mitigation, infrastructure improvements, housing stabilization, and new business creation.

Bill Nicklas serves as NIU's Vice President of Operations and Community Relations. He says the proposal did not make it past the draft stage, and says it was modeled after a redevelopment effort around Ohio State University.

"We've had time to kick this around for a couple of months. I would say that NIU, at the staff level right now, has seen this as a good first stab, but probably something that isn't going to speak to our mission and our potential role in any redevelopment," Nicklas said.

Nicklas says the university does remain interested in pursuing flood mitigation efforts by dredging the East Lagoon to reduce the flood plain in the surrounding area.

Updated May 28, 2014 at 11:00 a.m. (Includes response from Preserve Our Neighborhoods)

Preserve Our Neighborhoods has been critical of the city and university's transparency with residents during such planning sessions. During a news conference Wednesday morning, spokesperson Misty Haji-Sheikh, who is also a county board member, says the document was drafted without input from her organization.

Misty Haji-Sheikh with the group Preserve Our Neighborhoods points out the John Street area near NIU
Credit Jenna Dooley / WNIJ

"We feel very strongly that the fact that this document exists show very clear intent." Haji-Sheikh said. "Why would they do that, naming real people and real dollar amounts if it's just an idea?"

Updated May 28, 2014 at 6:30 a.m. (Includes response from the City of DeKalb)

"While we are very pleased to see the discussion of a possible direct partnership on community redevelopment in the College-John area, at this time, the City believes that the University is in a better position to work on a public/private partnership with the City serving as a review agency instead of as a direct partner in the project.  That the discussions of partnership have occurred at all is a sign of the increased communication and cooperation between the City and University.”

To date, the City has not entered into any agreements or memoranda of understanding regarding the proposed redevelopment or community linkage projects.  The City has seen a document publicly circulated that was entitled as a Memorandum of Understanding and which listed the City as a party to the agreement.  While the City did not participate in the preparation or drafting of that document, it is encouraging to see that community partners wish to solicit such direct City involvement in projects of this nature."

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