DeKalb residents sound off on north side development proposals

Additional input is welcomed at future community listening sessions put on by the city of DeKalb and Opportunity DeKalb.

DeKALB – DeKalb residents took to the DeKalb City Council meeting by the dozens Monday to make their views known concerning proposals to redevelop the Blackhawk and Hillcrest lots on the city’s north side.

Some ideas floated for the lot and its redevelopment potential vary, ranging from a community center and walk-in clinic/urgent care facility to community food and education center.

The 4.87-acre lot, which is home to the former Campus Cinemas movie theater on Blackhawk Road and Hillcrest Shopping Center, came under the ownership of the city after being subject to neglect by previous owners. The properties have since been demolished and combined into an “L” shaped lot with the intent to redevelop.

Among the dozens to comment on the redevelopment proposals was DeKalb resident Darryl Crum. Crum said he wants to know how the city’s plans could impact traffic along Ridge Drive and any of the other major streets.

“For us, if it increases traffic and the speed on traffic, this is not a good deal for us,” Crum said. “Our community will do damn near anything to get the city to pay attention to our traffic problems.”

Crum added that he would like traffic to be addressed in any redevelopment plan the city council ultimately approves.

Mayor Cohen Barnes replied, saying the city is working to find solutions to the problems.

“Patrol is one of those that we know we need to increase,” Barnes said. “That’s an issue citywide. But then also we’re working with our city engineer. I believe he just got the plans back to be able to put in a … median within Ridge that’ll be a choke point for vehicles that is at least going to cause people to start pumping the brakes and slowing down.”

DeKalb resident Joey Moore said she would like city leaders to consider beefing up their support for businesses that formerly occupied the Hillcrest Shopping Center such as Graham Cracker Comics. Businesses who were former tenants of the Hillcrest space were relocated by the city – which also fronted financial costs for the tenants – before demolition.

The comic book store is now a tenant at 901 Lucinda Avenue.

“There’s not a lot of promoting of those businesses specifically saying, ‘Hey, come on out. Look how exciting this area is. We have really cool things in that little pocket.’” Moore said.

Moore said she wants to see the city provide some marketing awareness to area business to encourage patrons, especially since the comics shop was one which was relocated.

Moore, referencing the Annie Glidden North Revitalization Plan, noted that the city has alluded to the idea of bolstering development along Lucinda Avenue as there are other spaces to develop beyond the “L” shaped lot. She urged the city to step in and help address the issues.

“The ‘L’ is not the end,” Moore said. “That’s not all of our space.”

Barnes acknowledged that there’s been a lot of discussion on the north side development proposals and what the city could do with the lots. He said city leaders are committed to opening up opportunities for the public to weigh in on the north side’s potential for redevelopment.

Representatives from Opportunity DeKalb, an area nonprofit working to spur north side development growth, are expected to host additional community listening sessions, but have yet to announce the details.

DeKalb city leaders will invite further discussion on this topic during the city council’s Aug. 22 meeting.

Approval of a plan to redevelop the lots will ultimately remain in the hands of the DeKalb City Council to decide.

City Manager Bill Nicklas has said the city is eying a potential mixed-use development made possible through a public-private partnership.

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