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Northland Plaza owner wants incoming grocer, fitness center to revitalize shopping center

December 20, 2018

DeKALB – Attorney Mark Nora said that his client, the Northland Plaza Shopping Center, has had “a rather rough time of it.”

Nora, of Polsinelli law firm in Chicago, attended Wednesday’s DeKalb Planning and Zoning Commission meeting on behalf of the Northland Plaza owners. Nora said that the intention is to bring Northland Plaza “up to speed” with what retailers in the Upper Midwest are doing in terms of allowing special use spaces in centers that would normally be for traditional retail only.

The commission unanimously voted to recommend the City Council approve the project to bring in a national grocer and fitness center.

“It’s an ongoing attempt by the ownership to deal with not only the economic issues that all shopping centers are dealing with, but the fact that an ever-increasing amount of shopping is being done online,” Nora said.

Nora said he cannot at this time disclose the names of the grocer and fitness center. Dan Olson, principal planner for the city and staff liaison to the commission, said after the meeting that the names have not yet been disclosed to the public, but did not respond directly to whether the city knew the names of the proposed tenants.

Sarah Burns, who works for Weber Shandwick, a public relations firm representing Aldi, told the Daily Chronicle in an email that Aldi, currently at 2569 Sycamore Road, plans to open a new location in the DeKalb area in mid-2019.

“Part of [a specific start date for construction] is going to be determined by when we obtain approval,”

When asked when the project would begin, Nora said, “We’re looking at the first quarter of 2019.”

Olson said the fitness center “is committed to going in [the plaza].”

The plaza owners are seeking approval for three separate items: to amend the list of permitted retail uses for the plaza to include special use options, which would allow for the fitness center; install a pylon sign along Sycamore Road at the north entrance of the plaza, next to Egg Haven and Panera Bread; and approve a plat of re-subdivision for the northeast section of the property, where the fitness center would be located to provide patrons with direct access to Sycamore Road.

Some commissioners brought up concern about adding a retail sign along Sycamore Road. Olson pointed out that the sign regulations have been amended since the original application. The city now is recommending that the pylon sign be only 30 feet high, with seven panels of space for tenants. The original proposal indicated the sign would be 41 feet high.

“I question whether you need another sign,” said Ron Klein, a newly appointed commissioner. “We have enough signs on Sycamore Road. If those two big signs up there now aren’t being seen, I can’t imagine another one is going to make a difference.”

Commissioner Katharina Barbe agreed with Klein.

Nora said the requested pylon sign was a direct response by Northland owners to alleviate tenant complaints about the lack of customers, which the tenants feel is because of lack of exposure from the street.

“We want to be supportive of businesses, and they’ve come to us with a need for visibility,” Olson said, explaining the city is recommending a smaller sign only but still supports the additional pylon sign.

The grocer and fitness center will take up the two empty panels on the existing pylon sign at Barber Greene Road and Sycamore Road. The newly installed pylon sign will be designated for tenants at the back of the plaza only, which Olson said in some cases is more than 800 feet from the road.

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