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Sycamore planning commission to hear indoor storage facility proposal

DeKalb proposal contingent on number of pre-lessees, according to the developer

SYCAMORE – Doug Olson of Franklin Investments will bring his proposal to convert the former Brown’s County Market building at 403 E. State St. into an indoor self-storage facility at Monday’s Sycamore Planning Commission meeting.

It’s the latest in a wave of such facilities being proposed and developed throughout DeKalb County.

Two weeks ago, the Sycamore City Council unanimously approved language allowing indoor self-storage facilities to the city’s Unified Development Ordinance. These amendments were also submitted by Olson to make his storage project possible.

Olson said the all-indoor facilities are becoming more common as you get closer to Chicago.

“Ultimately, it’s equal to storing stuff in your own home,” Olson said.

Olson said the plan would be to keep Family Dollar, 411 E. State St., where it is and add two additional retail fronts so the property will resemble a strip mall. The estimated cost to turn part of the building into an indoor storage space is around $1.9 million.

The self-storage site would have 178 units of varying sizes, and Olson has said the community can support another 100,000 square feet of self-storage.

The UDO amendments were well-received by members of the Planning Commission and council members, who both approved them without opposition.

Olson said the market would not support another grocery store, especially with the proximity to other grocery chains such as Hy-Vee, Jewel-Osco and the possibility of a new Meijer location. He said that it also would be hard to find retail providers to occupy that much space.

“We’re just trying to find a way to make use of a building that will positively affect the community, and hopefully people will agree,” Olson said.

Should the commission approve the proposal, Olson said he quickly will move to bring the project before the City Council for final approval.

DeKalb storage facility proposal

Shortly before the Sycamore City Council meeting during which the UDO amendments were approved, the DeKalb City Council approved a similar set of amendments to its city’s UDO submitted by developer Jim Mason.

Sycamore City Manager Brian Gregory said the timing was coincidental, but he has noticed when driving through suburbs that there have been a couple of old stores that have been converted into indoor storage.

“I think it’s important to emphasize that each community looks for what’s best for it,” Gregory said. “In our case, it’s just indoor storage.”

Olson’s and Mason’s proposals are unique in that their facilities would be climate-controlled.

Mason said the interest in these facilities comes from the outpouring of Illinois residents who are moving but don’t want throw away their belongings. That, coupled with the rise of Amazon has killed retail options, he said.

“That’s what people are really interested in, because so many people are trying to get out of here,” Mason said. “And if you can provide it, it’s lucrative enough to be worthwhile.”

If the interest is there, Mason proposes to convert two of his vacant properties, the former Sullivan’s grocery store at 1401 S. Fourth St. and the former Finest Furniture building at 1500 Sycamore Road, into climate-controlled self-storage buildings.

“Anything that was in a home that people lived with should be environmentally stored,” Mason said.

Unlike Olson’s plan to move straight ahead with a special use request, Mason said he will take applications for pre-lease space in the buildings, and if the interest is not there, he will not remodel the buildings. Mason said he is getting ready to begin advertising within a 50-mile radius of DeKalb.

When the DeKalb Planning and Zoning Commission approved Mason’s UDO proposal in February, part of its recommendation was to require an applicant to prove a building or property was obsolete for retail use based upon a list of economic factors.

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