DeKALB — DeKalb town leaders gathered Monday to mark what they said was a North Side rehabilitation plan, including the demolition of the Hillcrest Mall, which is set to begin Tuesday.
Timothy Moore was one of about 10 members of the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity to meet outside the Hunter Hillcrest Mall in DeKalb on Monday. The DeKalb City Council held a special meeting to mark the latest step in a months-long mission to take ownership of the neglected building and redevelop the space.
The building was previously owned by Evanston-based Hunter Properties. The property management company was once the largest landlord in the city, and during its tenure of Hunter Hillcrest and others, including the Lincoln Tower and Hunter Ridgebrook apartment complexes, racked up hundreds of unregistered breaches. City code fixes for neglected properties and security vulnerabilities.
Under city ownership since August, the mall’s impending demolition could bring new life to the space, those gathered Monday said.
“This is a big step and a positive change for city safety,” Moore said. “I often pass the building, and it’s not a place I wanted to go. If I had to stop, I went in and out.
A year ago, the city announced that a settlement had been reached with Hunter Properties in ongoing legal disputes over code violations and other legal issues. The city then purchased the mall from Hunter for $1.18 million in August 2021.
Mayor Cohen Barnes, whose 2021 mayoral campaign included promises to resolve lingering issues between Hunter Properties and its tenants, described Monday as “a monumental day.”
“It’s a concrete example that change is happening in the community and more change is coming,” Barnes said. “From economic development in the city with Facebook and Amazon, removing bad landlords and increasing and improving police and fire departments for better safety for all. Times change, and so does Bob Dylan’s song.
Last month, DeKalb City Council approved a $237,883 demolition bid to Rockford-based contractor Northern Illinois Services Company for the work.
Once the mall is demolished, Barnes said the space will remain grassland until a developer comes along.
“The land is not for sale at this stage, we will be very picky and selective about who we sell it to,” Barnes said. “Right now we’re in the driver’s seat. We will hold onto the property until the right opportunity arises.
All tenants of the mixed-use commercial and residential building on the 1000 block of Hillcrest Drive have been relocated, City Manager Bill Nicklas confirmed.
According to city records shared with the Daily Chronicle, nine business owners were aided in their efforts to relocate the Hillcrest Mall. This includes America Dream Tax, a beauty salon owned by Paula Espiritu, Northern Fresh Market, ClothingIt2, La Salsa, Red Fish and Chicken, Huskies Tobacco and Rocky’s. According to documents, five residents also left the living units on the upper floors of the building.
To help offset the costs of relocating residential and commercial tenants before demolition, the city of DeKalb also approved a plan last year to reimburse those tenants for the costs, according to city documents. This includes reimbursement of first and last month’s rent and a security deposit in a new rental location, as well as reimbursement of moving expenses. According to city expenditures through April 26, the city has spent $172,543 on development services for reimbursement.
The city also used $1.5 million in federal funds from the American Recovery Act to help residents and businesses with their resettlement efforts.
The site is near another vacant lot owned by the city, the former site of the Campus Cinemas building at 1015 Blackhawk Road, demolished in October 2020.
The Hillcrest Shopping Center and Old Cinema create an L-shape east on Hillcrest Drive and north towards Blackhawk Road, which city staff believe will encourage positive development in the area. The land was also highlighted in the city’s Annie Glidden North Revitalization Task Force, which has since morphed into the local Opportunity DeKalb group, as a potential space for future development.
The mixed-use rental business property located at 1011-1027 Hillcrest Drive is one of four rental properties owned by Hunter Properties that the landlord must sell as part of the landlord’s approved settlement agreement with the city. . Hunter Properties is required to sell the buildings by April 2023.
Pursuant to the settlement agreement with local owner Hunter Properties, DeKalb City Council approved a year ago in April 2021, the buildings Hunter Properties is required to sell include Hunter Ridgebrook, Hunter Tri-Frat, Lincoln Tower and Hunter Hillcrest.
In December, the DeKalb City Council approved a $1 million incentive for Chicago developer Clear Investment Group LLC to purchase more than 400 Hunter Properties rental units in the city, including Lincoln Tower, Hunter Tri-Frat and Hunter Ridgebrook. .
Glenn Roby described the Hillcrest Mall as “a run-down property”. Roby is a board member of Opportunity DeKalb, a non-profit organization seeking to revitalize the Annie Glidden North neighborhood.
“I’m excited because it’s an opportunity to start over,” Roby said. “I can’t wait to see change come to this part of town. … It is a beautiful part of the city because of its potential. The community needs dynamic properties, and now this property will have the opportunity to bring something potentially great to DeKalb.