Developer requests $8.8M

By Tyler Vincent

Joseph Freed and Associates is requesting $8.8 million from the city of DeKalb in public funds.

The funding would help secure a positive investment return on their redevelopment of the Northland Plaza Shopping Center, located near Barber Green Road.

Community development director Paul Rasmussen said the developers are looking to improve parts of the premises, such as parking and access to the shops. They also want to make off-site improvements, including plans to expand Barber Green Road to four lanes and to install of a large storm water system that would prevent flooding in the area.

The $8.8 million would be granted through TIF (tax incremental financing), which is given to businesses to renovate buildings.

Representatives from Freed and Associates presented their proposal to the DeKalb Economic Committee on Tuesday night. The EDC will review the proposal, see if it meets the criteria set forth by the city for the dispersal of TIF funds and decide on the issue at its next meeting, tentatively scheduled for Sept. 18.

The plaza, which is scheduled to open before the Christmas season, is slated to include several stores, most notably Borders Books and Music.

Rasmussen said the criteria concerning the dispersal of TIF funds involves whether the project will pay for itself in five to seven years, whether the developer’s requests for cash cover equal to or less than 20 percent of the project’s cost, whether it adds to the tax base and whether the results of the project will create jobs or not.

David Sytsma, the owner of the Junction Bookstore which will be competing with the new Borders, has been a critic of the renovation and what he feels is the city subsidizing out of town businesses to compete against established city businesses.

Sytsma said that he does not see the total amount of sales equaling projections made by Borders.

“They are projecting $5.5 million in sales,” he said, adding that in his experience, the total amount of sales of all bookstores in the DeKalb-Sycamore area usually totals about $2 million. “I can’t imagine those kind of sales in this market.”

“It’s illegitimate and unethical,” Sytsma added. “It’s illegitimate in the sense that capitalism is supposed to be competitive, but you’re not supposed to be put out of business by your own government. It’s ludicrous use of public funds.”

Rasmussen disagreed.

“The money’s not going to any particular business,” Rasmussen said. “It’s going toward a blighted building.”