Farmland to change into retail

By Dan Jacobson

DeKalb residents can expect up to 600,000 to 700,000 square feet of DeKalb County farmland to be developed into retail property, according to a spokesperson for Keystone Resources, Inc.

Burley Bechdolt, associate professor of economics, said he thought a large retail development in DeKalb would be a positive addition.

“There would be an increase in employment,” he said, “an increase in sales and an increase in tax revenues. From a consumer standpoint it would be good because there would be more places to shop. One drawback would be the traffic congestion.”

The site, located adjacent and south of Barber Greene Road and east of Route 23, was annexed into DeKalb Oct. 11. The farm was zoned as a general commercial district on part of the property and light industrial district on another, allowing for industry and business to set up operations there.

Gary Kobes of Keystone Inc. said the offering packages for the 138-acre site, expected to be developed as a 600,000 square-foot retail outlet, were made available Nov. 1 and are due Dec. 17.

“We have sent out about 45 offering packages to potential developers for the area,” Kobes said. “We have adds in the Wall Street Journal and Crain’s Chicago Business Magazine.”

The DeKalb County Board contracted with Keystone Resources Inc., a consulting firm, to assist in the development of the site to prospective developers.

Kobes said the potential purchasers will not be made public until after the deadline for applications on Dec. 17.

The potential purchasers for the property, which is divided into three parcels, 15 acres, 60 acres and 22 acres, will be reviewed by Keystone Inc., and the best offer will be presented to the DeKalb County Board at the Jan. 19 meeting.

Kobes said some of the interest in the property is coming from already local businesses. “Some of the local stores have indicated interest in relocating,” he said. “The Target store could end up on this site.

“We are anticipating a potential for DeKalb to accommodate a larger amount of retail than it is presently doing,” Kobes said. “We’re guessing around $60 to $100 million of retail are coming out of DeKalb a year.”

Kobes said that if more retail is offered to the DeKalb County consumers it is more likely they will keep their business local instead of leaving the county to shop.

Roger Hopkins, executive director of the DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation, said there is interest in retail development not only on the county farm but on other properties in DeKalb County.

“We have seen a favorable impression that there is interest in retail development,” Hopkins said. “We are interested in attracting more jobs and tax-base to the county.” Hopkins attributed the interest in development to a lower amount of retail competition in DeKalb County compared to the suburbs.

“We are hopeful that as developers come out to look at the property, they might consider other properties in DeKalb County that could also be used for retail purposes,” he said.