DeKalb buys out downtown space

By M. Robert Berg

DeKalb’s new under-21 nightclub, Phat City, might have met an early demise following a DeKalb City Council decision to buy out the owner of the building.

In a special meeting of the council Wednesday night, the city approved the purchase of the property at 146 N. Fourth St., which consists of Phat City and some apartments.

The city also approved the extension of an offer to the owner of Star Furniture, 108 N. Fourth St., to buy that property.

DeKalb City Manager Bill Nicklas said the city has wanted to buy out this corner for awhile. “For many years we’ve looked at this area as run-down,” he said. “It’s the showcase corner of DeKalb, with the railroad and two state highways intersecting there.”

The city has some plans for the property, Nicklas said. “We need it for more parking, and we also want to market (the land) in some way,” he said.

The city plans to demolish the buildings, Nicklas said. Besides more parking, some trees will be planted, and a retail store possibly will be built if the city can find an interested party.

Nicklas said the owners finally felt they were getting a good offer. “For a number of years we’ve had an interest (to buy the property), but the price wasn’t right for the owners,” he said. “Now the price is right.”

DeKalb is paying $130,000 to Marilyn Yen, the owner of the property at 146 N. Fourth St. Yen also owns the Yen Ching Restaurant, 810 Lincoln Hwy., which used to be at the Phat City location. When the restaurant moved, Phat City rented the space for the teen club.

Yen previously moved the restaurant because of space limitations. “The restaurant was too small,” she said.

She recently decided to sell the property to the city. “I wanted to sell it to the city because they want to use it for a parking lot,” she said.

The special meeting was called because of the circumstances of the deal. “It’s one of those things that come up very quickly,” Nicklas said. “Both owners expressed an interest to sell, and we wanted to act while the offer was still good.”

The closing for Yen’s property will be Nov. 5. Yen has 60 days after this closing date to have all the tenants out of the apartments, or to proceed through legal means to evict the tenants, according to an addendum to the contract.

Phat City opened on Sept. 17, and is co-owned by Brizona Clark and Burdett Griffin. Neither could be reached for comment, and it could not be determined whether the club will be moved to another location.

A deal for the other property, the Star Furniture annex, will not be closed until an environmental study is done, Nicklas said at Wednesday’s council meeting. “We have some concerns about what may or may not be a problem as far as environmental conditions,” Nicklas said.

Before the city buys the store, it wants to find out if there is an asbestos problem in the structure or any underground tanks on the property that would have to be taken care of, Nicklas said. “This is an opportunity to do a survey before closing, so we can negotiate the price if there is a cost for any cleanup,” he said.