City Council unable to choose proposal for Greek Row lot


Rachel Cormier

Community members attending the DeKalb City Council’s meeting on April 10. The City Council could not pick a proposal for the use of land between West Hillcrest Drive and Blackhawk Road. (Rachel Cormier)

By Rachel Cormier, News Reporter

DeKALB – The City Council meeting was flooded with over 50 community members, many in line to voice public comments about the council’s decision to either accept the “Greek Life” or the “Community Gardens” proposal to fill the former Annie Glidden North Neighborhood known as the “L.”

Three hours into the meeting, past the DeKalb Public Library’s closing hours, the City Council could not come to a decision.

The two proposals involved the newly available 4.87 acre property between West Hillcrest Drive and Blackhawk Road. The NIU Center for Greek Life proposal submitted by NIU would create a gathering space for members of Greek life, specifically the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) and the Multicultural Greek Council (MGC).

The building would include meeting and office spaces for students and staff to use and locally purchased fresh-food vending machines with a courtyard open to the community.

Clint-Michael Reneau, vice president for Student Affairs, stressed how the facility would be open not only to Greek students, but non-Greek students and the DeKalb community.

“If you’re gonna talk about equity, you also have to talk about access,” Reneau said.

The proposal from NIU was in response to a decline in student participation in Greek life and the limited housing for students on Greek row, though the plan saw concerns from the council about only incorporating 2+ acres of the full space on Blackhawk Road.

The second proposal, the Community Health, Education, and Food (CHEF) Complex from the DeKalb County Community Gardens (DCCG) saw large support during public comments at the meeting.

The CHEF complex included a large outlet for agriculture and food sustainability in DeKalb with a majority of the area dedicated to growing fields and greenhouses. The center would align with the organization’s goals to combat food insecurity in DeKalb with community gardens.

“It’s a little concerning they (city council) weren’t unanimous with all the work we’ve put in,” Jackie DiNatale, board member of the DCCG said.

Where many community members saw a clear consensus for the CHEF Complex proposal community center, the decision was extended as the council saw improvements for both facilities to collaborate and not be too hasty with the entire five acre area.

“Is it too much too soon?” DeKalb Mayor Cohen Barnes said. “I think we need to talk together. I think there is a viable solution.”

The mayor, along with other council members, saw the potential of combining both structures into the final plan with the agreement of Reneau and Dan Kenney, DCCG founder.

A new plan in 60 days would be completed and reconvened with the council containing improvements and incorporations from both proposals.