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A section of the lakefront path through the Northwestern University campus reopened last week.

On a walk down the path as landscaping crews were adding native grasses and other plantings to the area, a visitor could see the dramatic pattern of the lake-facing sunscreens on the visitor center and parking garage structure, which seem to suggest boat sails.

And boats on the beach next to the new sailing center framed a view of the beach and skyline.

Plans for construction of the visitor center, announced two-and-a-half years ago had drawn protests from some Evanston residents who claimed it stood too close to Sheridan Road and would encroach on public park land. Others claimed it would cut off access to the lakefront.

The city’s Preservation Commission voted to deny approval for the project and three local residents unsuccessfully sued to block construction.

The university initially proposed to lease a half-acre of city-owned land to provide a fire lane around the new building.

But the City Council overturned the Preservation Commission vote and approved a deal that avoided the need for a lease, but had the university pay for construction and maintenance of the walkway that would also serve as the required fire lane.

The $32 million project provides parking for 435 cars.

An additional section of the lakefront path through campus, which has been closed for construction of Northwestern’s new music building, is scheduled to reopen next spring.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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7 Comments

  1. It’s still mostly a parking structure

    Just because they built it dosn't mean that it is no longer controversial, as the headline suggests.  At the end of the day, it's still a parking structure…for the most part!

  2. ‘Dramatic’? Or still just a land grab?

    Many Evanstonians–who witnessed the before and after–will still consider this construction project a land grab years from now.

    I'm happy NU now has a place to serve those in quest of its brand. They will know actually where to park and begin their visit or stay on the campus, rather than asking the locals, who in the past really didn't know where to send them, either.

    Now we can, with the rejoinder, "You can't miss it!"

    1. land grab?

      Only a few Evanstonians will think of this as a "land grab".  

      Those who are a little more educated on the subject understand that this University has put much more land back onto the tax rolls than they have taken off. They understand that the University expanded east into the lake instead of "land grabbing" west into the city. They understand that NU compactly operates on maybe half the land that other similar sized Universities occupy, again, partly because NU returned so many parcels back to the rolls.  

      And I have walked the new lakefront path, I like the new buildings, I appreciate that NU added parking, will keep that pathway open and maintained, that they continue to keep their private campus and lakefront open to the residents of Evanston.  

      Great job NU, and unlike the constant complainers, thank you for being a great neighbor, Evanston would be so very diminished, and much worse off financially, without you.

      (I shouldn't poke this hive, the angry swarm of rote, anti NU buzzing shall surely rise)

  3. It really is beautiful

    We will learn to see past the parking garage, which really was needed, and I predict many townies will greatly enjoy the wide new path, the dozens of new trees, plenty of room for cyclists and pedestrians, and zowie what views!  It's a huge improvement from what was there before and will bring more residents to this area of the lakefront.  The new sailing center is really nice.

    I've always wondered what Northwestern's 50 year plan was.  Take a stroll through the Loyola campus where a dozen buildlings have gone down and up over the last 10 years.  It's stunningly beautiful, with breathtaking views of the lake, wide paths, incredible landscaping.  Worth the time to see what can be done.

  4. What a shame.

    I'll be the first to admit I do not know the ins and outs of the deal on this, but I do know that it seems an awful waste to use beautiful lake front property to house cars.

    1. Parking lot

      oh but it's the most lovely parking lot you'll ever see. Complete with trees and stuff. Thank you o benevolent overlords. Thank you for looking after us. Without you we'd just be another dirty eyesore wasting the beautiful northern shores of Chicago. Thank you for your beauteous generosity and prestige you have bestowed upon us. I only wish that we lowly residents could somehow make your livelyhood easier… If only we could release you from the burden of paying taxes… If only I could get a monthly pamphlet in the mail extolling your virtues… If only…Oh forget it. You win.

    2. Oh, and

      Thank you for allowing us to walk upon thy sacred private lands without fear of prosecution For we not know what we doeth as we are only here to payeth our taxes. 

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