Revitalization continues with steering committee


The now-closed campus theater stands May 20 at the corner of Blackhawk Road and West Hillcrest Road.

By Noah Thornburgh

DeKALB — Community members are making progress on the Annie Glidden North Revitalization with a steering committee, which is forming a board of directors and applying to be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

The steering committee was formed by members of the original Annie Glidden North Task Force, which dissolved in January after the AGN Revitalization plan was adopted by City Council in November.

“What we’re looking to do now is keep some initiatives rolling that had continued out of community conversation,” said Bill Nicklas, DeKalb city manager. “We want to create a community development corporation that could help with redevelopment of the area.”

Nicklas said development of the area by West Hillcrest Drive and Blackhawk Road is a long-term goal.

Dan Kenney, executive director of the DeKalb County Community Gardens, has started planning the first facility of the revitalization.

The top priority on the accepted AGN Revitalization plan is the construction of a Community Food and Education Center. Large parts of DeKalb, including the AGN neighborhood, are classified as a food desert by the US Department of Agriculture. The department defines a food desert as an area with high poverty and low access to a supermarket or large grocery store.

Kenney drafted a proposal for the project March 10, focusing on efforts to combat the food desert.

The facility would combine a grocery store, restaurant, shared-use kitchen, food hub, greenhouses and urban farm, according to the proposal. The proposal highlights a pay-as-you-can model for emergency food access, targeting low-income areas designated by the USDA.

The location of the facility is not set.

Kenney said the facility will provide opportunities for community members interested in social entrepreneurship and food science.

“We’re hoping it will be something students are interested in and moves NIU toward reaching [its] goal of increasing enrollment,” he said.

Although the facility is in its early stages, Kenney plans to partner with the Northern Illinois Center for Community Sustainability. The center, announced by former Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner and NIU President Lisa Freeman in October, will be a $22.9 million research facility focused on food, water and climate change.

“There are many similarities in the missions of the Northern Illinois Center for Community Sustainability and the Food and Education Center proposed by DCCG, and we look forward to exploring mutually beneficial ways to cooperate,” Gerald Blazey, vice president for research and innovation partnerships, said in a statement to the Northern Star.

Kenney said the Community Food and Education Center will be funded by grants, donations and private investors. He said architectural design for the center could be completed in three to four months.

Updated 2 p.m. Tuesday May 21.