DeKALB – In about two weeks, the Hillcrest Mall on the north side of DeKalb will be demolished, part of a year-long plan by the City of DeKalb to rehabilitate the space that once housed businesses and residents.
Followed by a round of applause led by Ward 1 Alderman Carolyn Morris, a unanimous vote by DeKalb City Council set demolition plans in motion on Monday. The city hopes to put the soon-to-be-vacant land at 1011-1021 Hillcrest Drive up for sale, along with an adjacent parcel of land where Campus Cinemas once stood.
DeKalb Mayor Cohen Barnes applauded the efforts of city staff, including City Manager Bill Nicklas and City Attorney Matthew Rose, over the years to secure the building and others like it, from former owner Hunter Properties, based in Evanston. 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.
“We should have a happy dance,” Nicklas told council on Monday, smiling ahead of the demolition vote.
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.
“I’m excited,” Barnes said. “It’s pretty awesome all the work you’ve all done long before me, getting this deal with Hunter, allowing us to force a transaction with this, which is just one piece of the overall puzzle that we’re working on. I can’t say enough about it.
Barnes, whose 2021 mayoral campaign included promises to resolve lingering issues between Hunter Properties and its tenants, voted an “outright yes” on Monday to approve a $237,883 demolition bid to the Rockford-based contractor. Northern Illinois Services Company.
The city will hold a press conference to kick off the demolition process at 3 p.m. on May 9 at the Hillcrest Mall site.
All tenants of the mixed-use commercial and residential building on the 1000 block of Hillcrest Drive are expected to be relocated by Saturday, according to city documents.
According to city records shared with the Daily Chronicle on Tuesday, nine business owners have been assisted 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.
Since the city bought the building nine months ago, work has had to be done to ensure the building remains viable for those still using it until demolition can begin. The tenants were given notice when the building changed ownership and a six-month grace period to move out, as city documents were confirmed at the time.
“We wanted to be a fair landlord for the people still in the building,” Nicklas said. “During these six months, we cannot stop being a responsible owner.”
Work to keep the building in working order for its current tenants over the past nine months has included repairs to the roof, heating, plumbing and electrical, Nicklas said.
In a photo shared with the Daily Chronicle by city staff on Tuesday, animal droppings can be seen on the floor of a condemned upper living unit in the Hillcrest Mall building after a tenant moved out.
“We had to be a responsible landlord while the tenants occupied their units, but given the deplorable state of the premises overall, the demolition made sense as a constructive step towards redevelopment of the area,” Nicklas said on Tuesday.
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.
The city also used $1.5 million in federal funds from the American Recovery Act to help residents and businesses with their resettlement efforts.
According to city records, commercial tenant relocation reimbursements totaled $109,394 and residential relocation $11,331. The city also spent $44,018 on work in the building while tenants were still inside, including $19,807 for asbestos abatement by DeKalb-based Indevcon Inc. and various repairs to the utilities such as gas and electric, and roof.
Up for sale
No price has yet been determined for the parcel of land that Nicklas said the city plans to put up for sale, soliciting development offers for the land once demolition is complete.
The site is near another vacant lot owned by the city, the former site of the Campus Cinemas building at 1015 Blackhawk Road. The city secured a $400,000 lien on the theater’s property in 2020. It was 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 after years of controversy involving concerns expressed by city staff, officials and tenants about the poor quality of life in the spaces and hundreds of code violations from the city.
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. .