Downtown to be polished

By Jessica Kalin

Main Street DeKalb’s new executive director Jennifer Groce has been busy working to improve the aesthetics of downtown.

The first part of Groce’s refurbishing plan – coordinating trash cans and sidewalk benches – already is complete.

“The downtown area is the postcard of the community,” Groce said. “I would love to see more street furniture and flower pots.”

Work to improve the appearance of one downtown building has been ongoing at 260 E. Lincoln Highway with help from a city grant. O’Leary’s Irish Pub & Grill has installed new windows and put in a new wooden facade. The pub, originally slated to open March 17, should open April 1, Dan Rapp of the Community Development Center said.

Groce has to lure merchants to an area that has lost stores such as Fannie May Candy, 223 E. Lincoln Highway; and Northlander, 209 E. Lincoln Highway, in the past two months.

“We hate to lose stores, but it brings opportunity for other businesses. More stores have come in than have left, and we are looking to enhance the eclectic energy of DeKalb.”

Mayor Greg Sparrow said he would like to see all the downtown storefronts occupied again.

“I think Jennifer will do a good job,” he said. “She is outgoing, and that is what we need to attract different people.”

Groce said she has enjoyed her job so far and has gotten to know local merchants and city officials in the process.

Looking ahead, Groce said she will survey the community for what it feels symbolizes DeKalb. She said she wants her endeavors to reflect the desires of the community.

“I am asking for community involvement. I look forward to engaging the community in the refurbishing process,” Groce said.

The second phase of her improvement plan is scheduled to be complete by the end of the summer, though she would not say what may be included.

“There are other things in the works, but I don’t want to give everything away,” Groce said.

Groce said she hopes the community is just as familiar with the shops and restaurants downtown as they are with the stores on Sycamore Road.