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Alderman fears loud parties on dorm deck

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, says she’s concerned about possible loud parties or other disruptive behavior the top-floor deck of a planned addition linking two Northwestern University dorms.

An architect’s rendering of the glass-encased addition connecting the two dorms.

The planned freshman quad bridge between Elder and Lincoln halls was approved by the city’s Site Plan and Appearance Review Committee Wednesday, but Thursday night at the NU/City Committee Fiske sought assurances from university officials that the deck area "would only be open for special events, and only in the presence of university employees."

The site today, looking northwest from Sheridan Road.

Fiske mentioned incidents in Chicago in which partiers had crashed to the ground when wooden back porches of apartment buildings collapsed, said she was concerned about situations like that, which might lead to injuries to students or noise complaints from neighbors.

Eugene Sunshine, the school’s senior vice president for business and finance, said school officials would abide by the city’s noise ordinance or any other restrictions that would apply to anyone in town having a party.

The location of the addition is marked by the red dot. University-owned properties in the area are shown in the lighter tint.

The glassed-in connector between the two dorms would give residents of the Lincoln building, which doesn’t have its own dining hall, enclosed access to the dining hall in Elder.

With an elevator as part of the addition, it would also improve handicap access throughout the complex.

Walter Hallen, who chairs the site plan committee, said that although the total size of the project on all floors is just 5,000 square feet, "functionally its a big deal" joining the two dorms into one community.

Hallen said that the project meets city zoning regulations and now only needs building permits to move forward.

Fiske said she hoped the university, as part of the project, would remove the brick pavers in front of the Colfax Street entrance to Elder Hall.

The brick pavers the alderman wants replaced with grass.

"I think it’s so much more hardscape than is really needed there," she said.

But Ron Nayler, the university’s associate vice president for facilities management, said the area across the street from the university’s tennis courts, was "a mud pit" before the school got approval about 20 years ago to install the payvers.

"If we’ve had that experience," of not having the pavers, "and it was horrible. Why would you want to go back to that?" he asked.

Bike racks outside the Colfax Street entrance to Elder Hall.

Plans for the addition also call for adding more bike racks, screened from the street, along the Sheridan Road side of the dorm complex, where signs now prohibit bike parking. Existing bike racks on the Colfax Street side, school officials say, don’t have enough capacity to meet the demand.

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