Re:New DeKalb to finish projects by summer 2012


Northern Star File Photo-Road constuction took place on Locust Street in August 2010.

By Olivia Willoughby

DeKalb Mayor Kris Povlsen said Re:New DeKalb will finish its downtown projects by summer 2012.

Re:New DeKalb Inc. is a public-private partnership currently working on improving the downtown area. Re:New DeKalb also organizes marketing and special events for the downtown.

“We’re putting a face lift on downtown,” Povlsen said.

For the past five years, Re:New DeKalb has worked toward fixing up and revitalizing downtown DeKalb. The project started eight years ago when late mayor Frank Van Buer decided to create a project to improve downtown DeKalb, said Frank Roberts, president of Re:New DeKalb.

“One of his strongest beliefs was a vibrant and economically active downtown needed a high quality of life for people in DeKalb,” Roberts said. “So as a part of his campaign, he campaigned to improve on downtown. Not just on infrastructure, but also aesthetics. He made sure those improvements happened.”

Roberts said Van Buer put together a task force of about 20 DeKalb residents with an interest in helping to improve downtown, including sidewalks, crosswalks, infrastructure and underground storm sewers.

Re:New DeKalb already completed street construction along Lincoln Highway, Locust, Second and Third Streets and now has moved to working on fixing up the public parking lot 2, behind the Chesapeake Bagel Bakery, and parking lot 3, on the corner of Grove, Third and Fourth Streets.

“A wayfinding signage project is also set to begin in the next month or so,” said Lindsey Engelsman, Re:New DeKalb marketing and special events coordinator. “This project includes new and consistent signage for the parking lots in the downtown.”

Re:New DeKalb also received $750,000 to help improve the Egyptian Theatre , 135 N. Second St.

“The costs of improving Locust Street came in $1 million under budget,” Roberts said. “We took $750,000 and dedicated it to the Egyptian Theatre.”

The money will help cover costs for all new seats, a new air conditioner, sound system, interior decorations and minor repairs, Povlsen said. Roberts said the new air conditioner will be installed next year.

The improvements to downtown DeKalb will benefit DeKalb residents including NIU students, Povlsen said. He also said citizens are grateful for the projects.

“The downtown of any community is the heart,” Povlsen said. “It represents the way the community values itself. The citizenry has commented that they are appreciative of the downtown improvements. If there’s more business, there’s a better opportunity for shopping and a better opportunity for NIU students.”

Roberts said he was excited for the projects to finish and already sees the improvements making a difference.

“I can already say more people are going downtown,” Roberts said. “We had a comedian at the Egyptian Theatre, and they had over 700 people. Some went to dinner or went shopping. I hope that we invested for a better quality of life for the people that live in DeKalb, inlcuding NIU and Kish College students.”

Povlsen said he looks at renewing the downtown area as an investment, and in the end, he can feel good about the work done.

“It’s been a long road, and there have been challenges,” Povlsen said. “[When the projects are complete], we can sit back and look at the work and say we’ve worked hard and have been successful and feel good.”