Report states DeKalb sees fewer furniture, apparel sales


Second ward alderman Tom Teresinski reads from his notes while 3rd ward alderwoman Kristen Lash listens at the DeKalb City Council meeting Monday.

By Ryan Felgenhauer

The county’s retail stores compare unfavorably to other similar communities, according to a report given at the DeKalb City Council meeting Monday.

The report, conducted by Hopkins Solutions LLC of DeKalb, compared DeKalb to other similarly sized college towns in the region, like Normal and Bloomington.

When compared with these towns, DeKalb has far fewer furniture and apparel sales, said economic development consultant Roger Hopkins.

A possible reason for this shortage of stores is a lack of desirable space in DeKalb. Prospective stores look for locations which are visible from Sycamore Road, Hopkins said.

Hopkins suggested providing incentives to businesses who open up in high-traffic, but less popular spots like Peace Road.

Some city council members said DeKalb should be selective in what businesses they offer these incentives to.

“We need to consider the quality of jobs we’re creating,” said 3rd Ward Alderwoman Kristen Lash. “Many of these businesses will offer minimum wage. We need to incentivize better paid jobs that allow people to buy homes and live in DeKalb.”

Also brought before the council was the revived proposal to allow DeKalb citizens to raise chickens in their yards.

Renee Kopulos, biological sciences Ph.D. student, discussed some of the concerns that defeated the proposal when it last was raised.

“The main issue was the fear that having chickens in the city could spread disease,” Kopulos said. “They are no more a threat to our health than any other pet that residents are allowed to keep in DeKalb.”

Kopulos’ comments were noted and will be considered as the proposal progresses.

The council voted on the fate of a DeKalb Architectural Improvement Project loan given to Mel Witmer, owner of Tapa la Luna, formerly 226 E. Lincoln Highway.

In the original terms of the $25,000 loan, Witmer would be forgiven $5,000 for each year his new business, Tapa la Luna, remained open, said City Manager Mark Biernacki.

Tapa la Luna closed Dec. 31 with $5,000 remaining on the loan. Witmer wanted the remainder to be transferred to O’Leary’s Bar and Grill, 220 E. Lincoln Highway, where it would be forgiven in a year.

Some council members said the remaining money was well worth the improvement Tapa la Luna’s building brought to DeKalb.

“We invested in the facade,” said 6th Ward Alderman David Baker. “Our downtown looks nicer for it. It’s $5,000. Let it go, people.”

Lash said allowing Witmer to transfer his loan would set a bad precedent for future businesses.

“What kind of message would we be sending?” Lash said.

The council ultimately decided to allow Witmer to transfer his loan with a 4-3 vote.

The next city council meeting will be 7 p.m. Feb. 6 at the DeKalb Municipal Building, 200 S. Fourth St.