Bold Ideas Have Some Upset


DeKalb County Online has received an invitation to a meeting set up for the residents of the “Ellwood Historic and the Hillcrest Neighborhoods” to share information about new plans by NIU and the City of DeKalb that may significantly impact the neighborhoods and to discuss what they can do to preserve the neighborhoods.

Resident and County Board member Misty Haji-Sheik and resident Diane MeMers are listed as the contacts with an email of The meeting is scheduled for Sunday, April 6, at 7pm at the Ellwood House Visitor Center.

savejohnThe City of DeKalb may be surprised to learn the Ellwood Historic District is unaware of the plans as members of that group have been instrumental in shaping the “DeKalb City Center” plans that collaborate with those of NIU.

The invitation to the meeting states the “Bold Ideas” came out of meetings held over five days in January 2014 between NIU campus leaders, students, facilities staff, City of DeKalb leaders and local “stakeholders.” However local neighborhood homeowners were not included in the discussions, according to the invitation.

“Bold Ideas” begins in Fall 2014 with one year, five year and future plans.

Some changes noted according to the invitation:

  • Make the Locust/College Avenue entrance to NIU the PRIMARY entrance, with traffic entering from Locust St. (on North First Street) to College Avenue to campus – through the center of the Ellwood Historic District.
  • Trolley or electric bus from NIU/Downtown via Locust/College.
  • Create a residential neighborhood south of the Fox Hollow neighborhood on what is now the North 40.
  • Create a new east-west road through the North 40 connecting North first Street to Garden Road. This road will handle traffic to the new residential neighborhood.
  • Hillcrest Reborn – “Thanks to the Students”
  • John Street and Harrison Avenue revitalized with “mixed use” (retail on the bottom and one or more floors of apartments above) and new homeowners (they propose to have faculty/staff and/or alumni living there)

Additional proposed changes to campus are:

  • Close Lucinda between the Kishwaukee River and Huskie Stadium to cars
  • Close Normal between the Lucinda and the Parking Garage to cars to creat a ‘spine’ of quad and walkways and ‘rediscover’ a stream that runs through campus.
  • Moving Greek Row down to Lucinda, across from the Holmes Student Center
  • And much more


A portion of the plans can be found at:

Read Ellwood Historic/Hillcrest Neighborhood invitation pdf file here.


  1. It is good that this issue is getting publicity and that information is getting out to the DeKalb community. Being “upset” is not the appropriate word to describe the intent or motivation for this meeting. Instead, the purpose is to share information (ideas/plans/actions) that has been shared by NIU to faculty, staff, students, alumni and community leaders (and not community specifically) with residents who live around the collar of NIU, which may or may not have an impact on things such as neighborhood quality of life, property values, population density and traffic issues. Many people I’ve talked with are very positive about lots of aspects of the Bold Ideas/Bold Vision plan; everyone would love to see a more unified, green and enlivened university. NIU adds so much to our community (and my family is an NIU family), and to see the partnership with the City of DeKalb is a very positive step. Informed citizens make the best decisions for themselves and for their community; that is why this meeting is being held. Note that it does not just pertain to the Ellwood Historic District; there is a large swath of homes east/north/northwest of campus that could be impacted by future changes.

    • This plan changes DeKalb in many ways so all in this community are stakeholders. Upset was the chosen word for the headline because the person that sent me the invite said that was why they sent it to me.

      I’ve long been an advocate of increased cooperation between NIU and the City of DeKalb. But the finances of this Bold Ideas project and the DeKalb City Center, which are really joined at the hip, should be openly discussed and clearly understood by the public before proceeding. A representative government should consider the informed feedback from their constituents with the highest of priorities.

      These projects will require public debt and I’m just not convinced that the City of DeKalb, NIU, or the State of Illinois are in the financial position to guarantee this loan. That could leave the local taxpayers on the hook through General Obligation Bonds sales enabled by the City’s Home Rule authority.

      The City of DeKalb’s comprehensive plan was written when Mark Biernacki was an employee in the planning and zoning department. A new plan that addresses the entire community has been needed for some time. With these Bold Ideas coming forth from the county’s largest employer and main economic engine that time is now.

      Thanks for shining the torch.

  2. Closing Lucinda and Normal in those areas would really put an obstacle in the way of Dekalb’s first responders in an emergency. Police and fire use Normal especially to get to emergency calls quickly.

  3. It looks like about 30% of the North 40 is floodplain. Take a look yourself: I would venture a guess that is why the smart people did not try to put any buildings or roads there decades ago.

    How much did we just pay to move the police station close to Normal Road so they could have faster response times on the north side of town? That is a rhetorical question. I know how much we just paid to move the police station.