Breaking: Pappas to sell former DeKalb Clinic building to Safe Passage

March 5, 2019

DeKALB – Negotiations are nearly finished on a deal for developer John Pappas to sell one of the former DeKalb Clinic buildings to Safe Passage, both sides said.

Mary Ellen Schaid, executive director of Safe Passage, said Tuesday that Pappas is giving her organization a good deal on the property. Safe Passage is a nonprofit which assists victims of domestic violence.

“This is very exciting,” Schaid said. “We’ll finally be able to increase our shelter space, which is the primary reason we need a new building. Right now, we’re turning away too many people, and there’s no privacy.”

“I can’t say what the number is until the contract is done, but we got a very decent price,” Schaid said.

The deal is to sell the building at 217 Franklin St. to Safe Passage. The building was one of two former clinic buildings sold at auction in 2013. It was purchased by DeKalb Alderman David Jacobson for $110,000. He briefly used it as a resale store before selling it to Pappas a few years ago. The other former clinic building was purchased by Bill McMahon and is now Faranda’s Banquet Center at 302 Grove St.

Schaid said she expects to close on the property in the next 45 days, with an anonymous donor covering the cost, then to start a capital campaign to clear the site and build a new, state-of-the-art, 28,000-square-foot facility.

At the moment, Safe Passage is cramped, and relies on numerous remote sites to house women and children fleeing domestic violence.

“It’s just not an ideal space or situation,” Schaid said. “Rather than piecemealing it, we’ll be a cohesive organization.”

Pappas had proposed a plan to raze the old clinic and build an upscale, three-story multi-family residential building he likened to the brownstone buildings you’d see in Lincoln Park in Chicago.

“I think my development was looking amazing,” he said.

The plan was slated to go before the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission on Wednesday, but that meeting has been canceled.

“I thought [the property] would be better served for the community, which will be better off,” Pappas said. “It’s a good thing [Safe Passage has] been doing for the community.”

“He’s been very supportive, and we’re very grateful to him,” Schaid said.

Pappas said he’s already looking toward other projects involving buildings in downtown DeKalb, where he’s already built the mixed-use Cornerstone DeKalb building near First Street and Lincoln Highway, and where construction of Plaza DeKalb will soon resume.

Schaid said talks began a couple of months ago, not long after her agency opted to no longer pursue the former St. Mary’s Hospital at 145 Fisk Ave., because of rising projected costs to overhaul the site.

“We’ve looked at I can’t tell you how many properties – I don’t know, 10 different options,” she said.

She said the agency had to stay rooted in DeKalb, where it serves the most people, but that she’s also looking into leasing space in Sandwich to help clients in the southern part of the county.

DeKalb County State’s Attorney Rick Amato said he’s excited for what this will mean for victims of domestic violence.

“It is a wonderful opportunity for Safe Passage to continue growing and serving our community,” he said. “A new home for Safe Passage will help them grow to reach more of our victims of domestic violence.”

Schaid said the timeline on the project is up in the air, but her hope is for victims to find new, secure, state-of-the-art solace in about two years.

“We couldn’t be more excited,” she said. “This will allow us to operate so much more effectively.”

To help Safe Passage

Details on Safe Passage’s capital campaign to build a new building will be ironed out Thursday, Executive Director Mary Ellen Schaid said, but in the meantime, anyone interested in donating to the agency can do so online at safepassagedv.org or calling 815-756-7930.