Northwestern University’s executive director for Neighborhood and Community Relations says a pair of beavers have made their home on the school’s Evanston campus.

And, based on what Dave Davis told 1st Ward residents at a meeting Tuesday night, the beavers may be doing the biggest construction work on campus over the next few years.

Davis said at the Evanston Public Library session that, after a flurry of recent construction activity, the school has no new work planned in the near future.

Dave Davis

“We aren’t going to be doing any building any time soon,” Davis said, adding that a plan for a replacement dorm on the south side Sheridan Road at Hinman Avenue has been dropped.

But he added that he couldn’t project what might happen five or 10 years from now.

While the drop off in construction work may please near-to-campus residents, it also is likely to represent a significant hit to the city’s budget, which has benefitted in recent years from substantial building permit revenue from the university.

On the other hand, Davis said, the school brings in $700 million in research funding annually, which “is great for Evanston and the entire region.”

Davis, who’s about three months into his current job, after taking over from Alan Anderson, said he is continuing Anderson’s efforts to create more harmonious relationships among the city government, community groups and the university.

“I’ve been here long enough to know it’s not always been like that,” he added, “but I think the relationship is a little less complicated now than it was in the past.”

And Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said the NU/City Committee, formed as part of a settlement to a legal dispute over creation of a historic district around the campus, “is working really well now.”

“I won’t agree with NU on everything they do, but they’re being honest, as I am with them,” Fiske said, “So everyone feels a lot better.”

As for the beavers, a species that was reported six years ago to have returned to the North Shore Channel in Evanston after an absence of a decade, Davis said, “They’re safe. We’re not going to do anything to disrupt their habitat. And if they stay here long enough, we’ll have to give them a degree.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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