DeKALB – Developers say construction work on two major projects downtown is progressing, but some downtown merchants say it’s been a drag on business.
Alex Nerad, executive director of the Egyptian Theatre, said the crane that was on site Wednesday morning lowered two air handlers for the auditorium into the addition’s basement. On Friday, the crane will put precast concrete floor panels in place. The addition’s basement foundation and floor is complete, and steel was set for the basement and first floor, and new interior ductwork on the stage and lobby is also complete.
“Things are progressing quickly and going well after some delays this summer getting utilities moved in the alley before we could start digging,” Nerad said.
Both the theater work and the nearby construction of the new Plaza DeKalb apartment building are being funded in part with public funds. The city of DeKalb contributed $2.5 million in tax increment financing proceeds to the Egyptian project.
The theater is undergoing an extensive $4.5 million renovation and expansion that will add air conditioning, bathrooms and concessions and renovate interior aspects of the building.
Construction began in May and is expected to continue for months.
Nerad said the theater is also closing in on its fundraising goal of $5.5 million to cover the remaining costs of the project. Nerad said more than $4 million has been raised to date.
When complete, Pappas Development’s Plaza DeKalb will be a four-story, mixed-use apartment complex at 203, 223, and 229 E. Lincoln Highway. The building is expected to have a street-level Mediterranean specialty grocer with 21 apartments on the three stories above.
Foti Pappas, vice president of development for Pappas Development, said construction on Plaza DeKalb is expected to be complete by the end of the year, with residents moving in at the beginning of 2020. The roof and much of the framework is already completed.
“By the end of the year, we should have everything complete,” Pappas said Wednesday as he gave a tour of the one-bedroom and two-bedroom spaces, which will be unfurnished and rented for $1,300 to $1,600 a month. The rooms were just outfitted with large windows overlooking Lincoln Highway.
The building also will feature a private rooftop bar and communal living space on each floor, Pappas said, as plumbers, electricians, bricklayers and others worked Wednesday.
“The exterior should be cleaned up and complete by the end of November,” Pappas said. “You’ll see brick on the south side and the west side will be done in a few weeks, so you’ll get a good idea of what the building will look like.”
Some downtown merchants are eager for the projects to be completed.
Palmer Court, along Third Street in between the Egyptian and Lincoln Highway, has been closed for much of the summer.
Dan Watkins, owner of Herbal Embers: Creative Herbs and Crafts, which has been at the corner of Lincoln Highway and Second Street for seven years. He’s ready for Second Street to reopen after being closed at times during the summer to accommodate the theater expansion.
“They seem to be progressing pretty good,” Watkins said. “It’s a little annoying having that street randomly blocked or not blocked. I only have those side parking spots right by the shop, so when that’s completely blocked off, it’s taking away all the parking we have.”
He said he’s grateful the city changed its parking regulations to allow on-street parking for up to three hours after 6 p.m.
“That was really excellent,” Watkins said. “I like how they listened to us on that part.”
Carolyn Canon, longtime owner of MCR Framing, 137 E. Lincoln Highway, which shares a space with Blu Door Decor, said she’s closing up shop after 24 years. She doesn’t blame downtown construction totally on her dip in business, but said it’s had a hand in her decision.
“It has been stressful,” Canon said Wednesday, adding that she stopped taking orders a month ago and will be out within 10 days. “It’s made an impact, I think, on business downtown, and in fact I’m closing. [Construction] was perhaps the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
Canon acknowledged downtown development is necessary for the city’s continued progress, and that city staff have been receptive to merchant needs. She said construction is off-putting to potential customers and does affect sales, however.
“By the time it’s done,” Canon said, “the places that have been fragile and suffering and not making enough money to even pay their electric bill, they’re not going to be here.”
Source: The Daily Chronicle