Northwestern University/City Committee Meeting About Proposed Dorm

Site plan for replacement dorms proposed by Northwestern University.

A special meeting of the Northwestern University/City Committee was held August 16 at 7pm to hear a proposal for a dorm building on the Evanston campus.

Northwestern University (NU) is floating a proposal to tear down a current residence hall at 1835 Hinman — kitty corner from their new parking garage, and build a new 7-story dorm in three sections of approximately 85', 70' and 50'. This area is zoned U1 with a maximum of 45’ in height. NU also plans to ask the City to vacate the alley which runs north to south through this block.


In the 1970s, Northwestern University took down five houses to build the current dorms. At that time, they had asked to build up to the sidewalk and to vacate the alley. A group of local citizens in the area worked for a year advocating that the building be moved back from Sheridan Road and the city’s alley not be vacated. In the end they were successful.

Although preliminary in nature, this proposal lacked even rudimentary explanation or justification. According to NU community relations spokesman Alan Anderson, the additional dorm space will be needed to accommodate freshmen and sophomores who will be required to live on campus beginning in the fall of 2017. Currently only freshman are required to live on campus their first year. This new requirement is self-imposed by the University.

When pressed for an explanation of how much additional dorm space will be needed by 2017, Mr. Anderson could give neither an approximate number of current students who live on or off campus nor the number of dorm beds that NU will need by 2017.

Yet, he presented a Site Analysis and a Site Plan for the proposed dorm created by the architecture firm of Willam Rawn Associates | Nagle Hartray Architecture. What this firm based this preliminary proposal on is unclear, but they chose to propose a massive building that clearly does not follow zoning law. A zoning variance — granted by the City Council — would be needed if the plan is formally proposed. The Preservation Committee will also be involved, because the proposed building is in the Lake Shore Historic District. 

Mr. Anderson was asked why NU can't build more dorms on its campus which falls within the U3 zoning area. NU would be permitted to build up to 85' within U3 needing neither a zoning variance nor a trip to the Preservation Committee. He said that the University was looking into other options within the U3 area, but he wasn't able to reveal any of those proposed sites.   

Another meeting of the Northwestern University/City Committee is scheduled for September 6. Mr. Anderson said he will have a more complete proposal and additional information.

Zoning site analysis. Note where proposed dorms is zoned for 45'. Northwestern University is proposing dorms almost twice as high.

Posted on August 17, 2016 and filed under Lakefront Stewardship, Development & Zoning, Evanston Community.