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.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Is she serious?
    My gosh – is she serious!?

    What a waste of time.

    Please focus on the budget issues and the dreadful fiscal state of our city.

    Absolutely amazing.

  2. As Rome burns…
    My Lord, Alderwoman Fiske is trying to dictate to NU that the deck could only be used for special events and only with university officials present and to replace brick pavers with grass.

    Fiske’s comparison of collapsed wooden back porches of old three-flat buildings to a new building with a new deck is simply laughable.

    Once the building is finished, perhaps Fiske should drive around there at night and call Northwestern officials on her CELL PHONE when she spots a code violation.

    In case anyone is wondering, Evanston city employees and aldermen can use their cell phone while driving for official business. For everyone else, cell phone use in the car is prohibited.

  3. She is serious.
    This is fantastically petty. I wouldn’t burn bridges with Northwestern during lean fiscal times.

    1. Sure…
      …because the university provides such a significant contribution to the city’s budget. Please….this is a stupid issue but we waste too much time worrying about offending the university who should be doing more to pay for police and fire services they receive.

    2. Fiske is just concerned about the neighbors
      I think that Fiske is just concerned that the neighbors of the residence hall will be upset by the noise.

      For example, the Delta Chi fraternity’s website says that “ 23 of these brothers live in the Delta Chi house located at 619 Colfax Street (just next to Elder) ” If there are noisy students on the deck, these 23 scholars will be disturbed at night, and unable to study.

      The brothers of Sigma Phi Epsilon are across the street at 2341 Sheridan Road. According to their website, they have a GPA near 3.5. Alderman Fiske is rightly concerned that noises coming from this new deck will cross Sheridan Road and disturb the brothers of Sigma Phi Epsilon.

      The students of Northwestern are lucky to have an alderman like Judy Fiske.

  4. When will aldermen get around to real business
    The council seems to get their nose into everything but conducting real city business.
    If NU was a union or some business to get votes, we would not hear this—the council would be all over them to give them [NU] money for the building/roof.
    As it is they spend their time seeing how to pester NU.
    Aldermen sometime take a look at the map of land given to NU—originally to Central and Asbury. Maybe you would like them to take it all back—maybe a good idea since NU would run the city better than the council !

  5. Party deck.
    She is doing her job,bad idea NU.Thank you Alderwoman Fiske for trying to keep the neighborhood safe and peaceful.

  6. Nu outdoor party space
    Alderman Fiske is paying attention and asking important questions.

    okay, well, let’s ask more questions and help her answer them.

    Night Hours: how many days a year can the students possibly use this sun deck for wild parties? Shouldn’t there be an application for a permit? Is there a capacity number of students out on the deck if hypothetical party is thrown?

    Daylight: solitude, no one is disturbed; Vitamin D, is absorbed;unlimited access; Peace harmony, garden, maybe organic tomatoes. make it greeeeen!!

    Keep talking and make it happen with all parties understanding what this space can be used for.

    1. Party Deck
      Who exactly does Fiske want to protect ? There are no houses on the block as I recall, is she afraid Roycemore students will stay around at night and be disturbed by the noise ? Is she afraid they will hurl spit-balls at traffic [pretty far distance]? In college 40 years ago we had blow-guns that would get a paper dart that far, but I suspect the students have tried that.
      Between this and the silly GreatRoom lawsuit, it sounds like she wants to get rid of NU piece by piece by harassment.
      She and the neighbors came LONG after NU. Maybe she should move to Wilmette !

      1. Party Deck
        To John F,The Alderwomen is concerned about the students safety because they are part of our community.I don’t think it is spit balls to be concerned about,its students falling, Yelling,Urinating,Throwing bottles,etc. John there are houses on that block.

        1. Fiske should look elsewhere
          Yes, there three houses in that block. Their tenants are: (a) a fraternity (more rowdy NU students, dear god); (b) the Art Theory department on 629 Colfax and (c) NU Press on 625 Colfax.

          Regardless of who the occupants are, Judy Fiske should actually solve Evanston problems, not NU ones. Liability is such that access to that deck will be closely monitored by the university (as are all decks on campus), so Fiske is wasting her time.

          I’ve been witness to the unruly behavior of undergrads described above, but I’ve never seen it in university property. Rather, looks at the rentals around Evanston, with their rickety back porches.

          1. Blinded by the bullying
            You got there a few minutes before I did, Evanston resident. Yes, it’s quite likely Northwestern University is doing its own due diligence regarding liability and contruction of a new social facility on its campus that will involve hundreds and eventually thousands of students … and their parents, and their tuition. Why, then, have we all paid several days worth of homage to Judy Fiske’s bullying on the subject, to the point we lose sight of reality?

            NU has solid academic and social leadership, and a civic and business braintrust that rather outweighs that of Evanston’s City Council. Thousands of educated parents entrust their children to the university every year – there must be an informed reason.

            Aldermen, please leave Northwestern alone and pay attention to that which actually needs attention in our city.

  7. Safety
    Earlier this year, the City Council voted unanimously to make safety a civic priority. Glad to see that at least one alderman is taking this mission seriously.

  8. NU DECK
    Alderman Fiske is only asking the proper questions when discussing the proposed party deck. Alderman Fiske has been very instrumental in trying to forge a better relationship with NU( as well as other aldermen and our city manager) and it is already bringing about positive change. Sure, there are many critical issues facing the city, and while this is not at the top of the list, it is certainly an area of concern for those living in the surrounding areas. And, while Dan is correct in his comments about the fiscal health of our city, he fails to realize that Alderman Fiske has been an integral part of the budget process from day one and has asked the tough questions. Finally, I find the comments of “Mr. Who Knows”, who as we all know is REALLY Bill Smith( esteemed editor, reporter, blogger, etc, of this on line publication)condescending and sarcastic! It is always amazing that when he attacks someone, he has to hide behind his alter ego!

    As a first ward resident, I am extremely proud to have Judy Fiske representing me. I might add, that so did well over 600 other first ward residents!

    1. Funny Solution
      First, who cares about the election, it is over and we are all happy for all 600 of you. You must still have your Obama sticker on your car.

      Second, since NU pays for nothing (and we obviously do with property taxes), maybe Ald. Fiske can charge NU to use the party deck, thereby allowing her to oversee the use of the deck and adding revenue for our fiscal calamity.

      In today’s environment, such an overreach by Government surely would be allowable.:)

      Ha ha, just kidding…..

  9. NU staff member
    Evanston resident, i am not surprised to see you are a NU staff member,this building is in Alderwoman Fiske ward,and i am glad she is looking for the safety of are community.Northwestern University is part of are community,separation is what has put Evanston and Northwestern so far apart.I am glade that you admit that you have seen the unruly behavior in our ward.It has gotten alot better in the last year.It is time that Northwestern and the town of Evanston have a better relationship.

    1. Evanston Towney
      I agree, relations should be better. But ridiculous demands from Fiske don’t help move the relation in that direction. The unruly student behavior happens off campus for a reason: it is impossible on campus. It’s not even possible to have a well attended academic talk because the NU police comes and kicks out anyone standing in the corridors when the room is at sitting capacity. In the building I work, there is a deck (and there are no undergraduates). It is locked so much of the time that is rarely used. Fiske also complained about too many pavers. I suppose the new construction by the lake at Church and Sheridan is not part of her ward: talk about cement and pavers overkill. And that is actually city property.

      My point is simple: solve city problems — there are plenty of them. Rowdy parties on a planned campus deck exist in her imagination and that of those who dislike NU.

      And, by the way, I’m also a tax-paying Evanston townie.

  10. Where NU noise/safety is and is not.
    As was commented, the real problems are with NU housing off campus, e.g. Foster from Orrington to Ridge, Maple from Foster to Simpson and Simpson from Orrington to Maple. Just look at the beer cans/bottles on the street and lawns that would stay there forever. On a Monday night I found 20 cans in the street on Maple by the park south of Maple—imagine the noise that occurred during that party. Evanston and NU police both said it was the others responsibility to police the area.
    On campus the noise is pretty much east of Sheridan and north of Noyes. Unlikely to disturb neighbors unless like on commenter you could anything that was ever a house as a “house” in standard use—unless NU Press staff are sleeping there ?
    The Council spends so much time fighting small issues and NU [to pile up number of motions they make or gain votes from those that hate NU ?] and little time addressing the real issues.
    BTW If these neighbors care so much about the neighborhood, why don’t they even clean the cans/bottles/garbage from their own lawns and curbs—no all talk, no action. It looks like Roycemore is a big cause around the school. Has Fiske gone after them ?

  11. Deck the NU fuss
    All this debate over the NU “deck” just adds to global warming. Did anyone mention that 20 minutes were spent at SPARC commenting on how nice the design and materials are and the technical challenges of joining the two buildings. It was not NU bashing.

    Given some of the behavior of students off campus it is not a stretch to apply it on campus.

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