UPlaza upgrades concern landlords

By Mitchell Spence

Local landlords are worried University Plaza’s change to an apartment-style living setup is moving too fast.

DeKalb Area Rental Association members voiced their concerns on the speed of the redevelopment plans for University Plaza, 900 Crane Drive, at Monday’s City Council meeting. University Plaza’s developer, Capstone Real Estate Investments, plans to transform the complex from residence hall-style to apartment-style living where the number of rooms is reduced and the cafeteria is removed and kitchens are installed in suites. Capstone Real Estate Investments spoke about its plans and asked the city to waive some zoning regulations so it can install signs more than six and a half times the regulated size.

Jon Sauser, who attended the meeting to represent Star Properties, said there has not been enough notification of the development plans.

“I’m almost an adjacent property owner and I wasn’t aware of this and [DeKalb Area Rental Association] wasn’t aware,” Sauser said. “If the industry isn’t aware that’s a problem. It doesn’t seem quite right.”

Brad Rubeck, DeKalb Area Rental Association president, said more than 100 apartments foreclosed in the last year. He is concerned adding more apartment properties would create a surplus of available space while NIU attendance continues to decline.

“Vacant properties lead to lower tenant criteria, sub-standard maintenance, foreclosures and a need for more city services,” Rubeck said.

Rubeck asked if more time will be allowed for association members, compromised of local landlords, to get involved to better represent their interests as stakeholders in the community. Rubeck said the association’s members only saw the City Council agenda, which included information about the University Plaza changes, on Friday. The next City Council meeting is Sept. 8.

“We had just the weekend to look at it. With two weeks that will give us a much better chance to review the plan,” Rubeck said.

City Council also gave people with questions and concerns a chance to speak, but city attorney Dean Frieders said it could be more useful if people would bring possible solutions instead of things they would like to see change.

“We look forward to talking with” the association, Frieders said. “Clearly [the proposed renovation] is in the highest and best use of the property, but some are worried about what’s highest and best for the city.”