Northern Star




Northern Star

Northern Illinois University’s student news organization since 1899


Ensure student journalism survives. Donate today.

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

NIU expects to purchase land for Greek Life Center

Downtown special service area draws concern
Rachel Cormier
Matt Streb (left), chief strategy officer for NIU, discusses the developments for the purchase of land for the NIU Greek Life Center with Catherine Squires, vice president of University Advancement and president and CEO of the NIU Foundation. Shop owners of DeKalb’s Central Business District voiced their concerns over a proposed levy for downtown DeKalb residents to reimburse the city for street maintenance costs. (Rachel Cormier | Northern Star)

DeKALB – New conceptual drawings of NIU’s Greek Life Center were shown to the City Council to back a hopeful consideration to purchase the land where the eventual construction of the center will take place. 

The last update for the center happened at the Oct. 23 City Council meeting where the NIU Foundation had until March 31, 2024, to enter into a purchase and sale agreement with the city by providing substantial proof that the Foundation could purchase the land while bypassing immediate construction.

The deadline was pushed back to Monday’s meeting when the Council was unable to meet quorum for the March 25 meeting and then again at the April 8 meeting when key members of the Foundation were absent. 

Catherine Squires, vice president of University Advancement and president and CEO of the NIU Foundation, declared the university’s ability to purchase the land now that conceptual art for the building’s construction is complete.

“The purpose of our appearance tonight is to communicate to the City Council and the city manager our readiness to purchase the parcel in question, upon which we plan to construct the center for Greek Life,” Squires said.

The center’s future existence at the intersection of West Hillcrest Drive and Blackhawk Road, known as the “L” in the Annie Glidden North neighborhood, will stand as a meeting and event space for the surrounding Greek Life members of NIU.

The new graphics present the center having two stories with multiple outdoor balconies and a backyard recreational area. 

Matt Streb, chief strategy officer for NIU, confirmed the center’s original purpose for holding event venues and housing private meetings was not lost in the designs.

City Council members were wary of proceeding with the center’s progression when questions about the building’s timeline and expenses were left unanswered.

First Ward Alderman Carolyn Zasada said she felt the project no longer embodied the original Annie Glidden North Revitalization project that challenged bodies who were interested in the land to introduce structures that would revitalize and contribute to the Annie Glidden North neighborhoods.

“I feel like a majority of residents in that small area are very much going to feel forgotten by this project, and I understand I am in the minority with this, but I just feel like I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that,” Zasada said.

In response, Streb emphasized the possible philanthropic uses that the center could contribute as a tutoring or community recreational area.

The council agreed to further the discussion when the purchase and sale agreement would occur at a future City Council meeting.


Downtown residents and store owners waited patiently in the back of the City Council meeting, waiting to share their concerns with the consideration of a special service area (SSA), which would levy a property tax for shop owners in the downtown area.

The introduction of a new tax would reimburse the city for street maintenance costs including snow plowing, sidewalk snow and ice removal, and repairs for the city’s Central Business District, which is DeKalb’s downtown area for the entire calendar year.

The tax would reflect the assessment of the annual labor and material costs needed to maintain the cleanliness and repair of the district based on previous years.

Shop owners would have a property tax rate of 62.5 cents per $100 EAV (Estimated Annual Volume) which estimates a total EAV of $16 million for the entire downtown area divided by $100,000 and then multiplied by each property’s individual EAV.

An example in the agenda calculates that a property with a market value of $390,000 and an EAV of $130,000 would pay $812.50 to the city’s SSA. Combined with the city’s property taxes, the SSA would be a 77% property tax increase.

Bobbi Hays, co-owner of Barb City Bagels and owner of Robin’s Nest Bookshoppe, shared her concern for the dramatic property tax that she said would be detrimental to downtown businesses.

“I hope that you all recognize that this type of an assessment is going to cause small business and property owners to either close, sell or actually leave downtown DeKalb,” Hays said.

Matt Duffy, executive director for the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce, spoke in agreement.

“These additional taxes can be particularly challenging for small businesses, start-ups and those operating on narrow profit margins in a downtown DeKalb, made up of these small businesses and entrepreneurs, such financial strain could stifle the momentum gained recently,” Duffy said. “This is the opposite story that’s being told when we celebrate the reduction in property taxes.”

In response to the concerns of local entrepreneurs, members of the council agreed that the proposed tax rate was higher than their intended amount for the proposed SSA.

Sixth Ward Alderman Mike Verbic admitted his leadership in the SSA’s consideration but said DeKalb would look at an SSA smaller than the 62.5 cents proposed as the taxes would fund requested projects such as more parking in the downtown area.

“Should it always be the entire city of DeKalb supporting the costs to grow parking downtown, or if this is dollars that the property owners have a voice in using this, this amount of money that I would see would be the voice of the owners, the voice of the merchants,” Verbic said.

City Manager Bill Nicklas assured citizens they had the ability to reject the tax at the required public hearing and if 51% of property owners rejected the tax through a petition it would prevent the city from imposing the special tax. 

More to Discover