Task force tackles Greek Row revamp

By Tyler Vincent

Increased police presence, a potential neighborhood watch and prospective economic development were issues discussed at the meeting of the Greek Task Force on Wednesday afternoon.

A panel, including Student Association President Troy Caldwell, DeKalb Mayor Greg Sparrow and DeKalb Police Chief Bill Feithen, addressed the issues and concerns of about 25 people. This is the fourth meeting of the task force, which was designed to address the declining state of the Greek Row community.

“The word is out on what we’re trying to do,” Caldwell said. “As I’ve said before we’re going to try to win back Greek Row.”

Greek Row has seen an increasing amount of crime. This summer, resident Jason Manley was killed by a gunshot wound to the chest while walking along Greek Row. In May, Antonio Cureton was stabbed to death in front of the 7-11 at Annie Glidden Road and Hillcrest Drive.

“This is an area of town that we all know is declining,” Feithen said. “It’s unfortunate that we had to have tragic events to bring everybody together.”

Feithen discussed his plan for increased police presence in the neighborhood — which was seen recently as over 70 citations were given to people on Greek Row this weekend alone.

Feithen also said the soon-to-be-opened police substation in University Square apartments and the police’s bike patrol will have an impact on safety.

“You all should be cautious that the substation is more or less a field office,” he said. “It won’t be manned 24 hours a day.

Feithen added that the Northern Illinois Drug Task Force has increased its presence at the 7-11, an alleged hotbed of drug activity.

Angie Dimmig, the coordinator for Greek affairs, said that she would like to set up a Greek Row neighborhood watch program.

“We don’t know how to get started,” she said, adding that she would discuss the plan with DeKalb police. “We would like to see the sororities and fraternities working together to make the community safer.”

Caldwell said he wants the neighborhood watch set up within a month.

Sparrow said the city also will attempt to implement a renovation plan for Greek Row, similar to the Pleasant Street Revitalization plan, in which the city surveyed residents and attracted businesses to improve the area.

DeKalb Community Planning Director Paul Rasmussen said step one is to send a mail-survey to Greek Row residents to determine what should be done in the neighborhood.

“We as a staff did a survey in Pleasant Street,” he said. “We asked them, ‘You know your neighborhood better than we do. Where would you put more lighting?'”

Rasmussen also addressed the issue of economic development, which he and other members agree is key to revitalizing Greek Row.

“We have to have a situation where people will want to be there. It’s got to be pleasant,” he said. “What we need is an incentive plan to get businesses. We don’t have one right now.”

Economic development that the task force would like to see in the area includes a restaurant, a bar/club and a coffee house or lounge.

Rasmussen also said that a food store has expressed looking for a location in the Annie Glidden area.

The next meeting of the task force is scheduled for the week of Oct. 8. Sparrow said at that meeting he wants to finalize a permanent Greek Row Task Force to present to the DeKalb City Council.