DeKALB – Seventh Ward Alderman Tony Faivre said the city should stop "putting our foot in our mouth" and sending "mixed messages" when it comes to developers willing to invest in the city, right before the City Council on Monday voted to give
$3 million in tax increment financing money to Pappas Development LLC.
Faivre's comments came after a May 14 Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, which earned mostly favorable responses, that included criticism by commissioners and residents on the outward design of plans, saying it was dull and "looked like a prison."
Updated plans were presented to the council Monday night, as a 5-1 vote awarded a preliminary incentive agreement to the Pappas-led project that will build a mixed-use residential and retail space on what is known as the Mooney property, 204 N. Fourth St., and 423/420 Oak St.
Fourth Ward Alderman Patrick Fagan recused himself from the vote since he does business with Pappas, while 5th Ward Alderman Scott McAdams was the only “no” vote.
“This is a criticism of the city of DeKalb, that someone wants to invest in a project, and they’re asked by one group to change their plans,” Faivre said. “This project is 70-plus percent his money and his investment. We just keep sending mixed messages to people who want to come in because we’re not allowing them to invest. It is going to drive away investment.”
Pappas was in attendance but did not address the council during the meeting.
Updated plans for Pappas’ third downtown development project include an updated exterior facade, larger windows, and additional construction changes. Instead of two separate but identical buildings, the facility is now combined into one large L-shaped space, set right up to the corner of Fourth and Locust streets, much as his Cornerstone building on Lincoln Highway and Fourth Street.
The complex will have 86 luxury apartment units, instead of the original 76, some of them furnished, with 20,000 square feet of retail space on the first floor.
The new design allows for
251 parking spaces, and city code requires only 220, City Manager Bill Nicklas said.
First Ward Alderwoman Carolyn Morris said she thought Pappas’ initial site plans were more attractive than his new renderings, which prompted Faivre’s comments.
The project is expected to cost $13.8 million, and the developer will provide the rest of the funds beyond the TIF money. The funds will be awarded incrementally, with $2 million in funds from TIF 2 in 2019, and an additional $1 million from TIF 3 surplus in 2020 and 2021.
McAdams said he knew the TIF money would be approved, and said he voted no as a message in support of residents in his ward who voiced opposition to the plan.
“It’s the ‘we before me,’ ” McAdams said in an interview after the meeting. “I don’t want to be a problem or create difficulty. I’m pro-progress. I have no issue with the project itself or the developer specifically. I know there’s a lot of hostility towards him, and I don’t share that. But I did want to give voice to those people who have issues.”
Third Ward Alderman Tracy Smith also voiced support for the project, saying he agrees with Faivre that DeKalb should work better with local developers.
“This is a lot of money,” Smith said. “I’ve heard ‘rehab it’, that’s ridiculous, I’m sorry. I’ve been in it when it was Fourth Street Motors. What if the north wall falls down? This is a good venture for the city, a good use of TIF funds.”
Mayor Jerry Smith said he’s grateful for comments from all sides.
“I really appreciate the public’s input on this,” Jerry Smith said. “It takes me back to when we looked at a drawing similar to this and we were going to do something called Cornerstone. To think we could really have that built. And wow, look at what Cornerstone has done.”