A top Northwestern University official has denied reports circulating among local residents that the university is seeking to have its land along the west side of Sheridan Road rezoned.
The university’s senior vice-president for business and finance, Eugene Sunshine, said in an e-mail message this morning that the university “has no intention at the present time to seek zoning changes in the T1 and T2 areas.”
The T1 and T2 transitional zoning areas run along the west side of Sheridan from Emerson Street to Milburn Street. They separate the university-owned property from privately-owned residential parcels further west.
The Northwestern Neighbors citizens group claimed over the weekend that Alderman Edmund Moran, 6th Ward, and City Manager Julia Carroll had met with university officials to discuss rezoning the Sheridan Road property U1 as part of a deal in which the university would sell to the city a parking lot in Research Park, now the site of the Farmers Market, as a new location for the Civic Center.
Rezoning the property U1 would let the university construct classroom and dormitory buildings on the land. The current zoning permits college offices and single-family and two-family housing.
Mr. Sunshine said university and city officials “have many conversations about matters impacting their multiple interests” and he confirmed that some discussions within the past six months have related to the university’s land in Research Park.
But he said none of the conversations about zoning and land use “have gone beyond exchanges of concepts and ideas.”
Sunshine admits zoning disucssions
Bill, you really need to be more honest with your readers. The e-mail you quote from Gene Sunshine came in response to my inquiry as a member of the NU/City Committee. In language you carefully omitted from your report, Mr. Sunshine admits exactly what Northwestern Neighbors asserted: “University and City officials have [had] … conversations about … zoning (both in and out of the T1 and T2 areas) … and some of the discussions have related to the University’s land in the research park.” The denials you report — as to “concepts and ideas” and NU’s intention “at the present time” — are meaningless dodges designed to avoid compliance with the federal Consent Decree that requires public discussion of such zoning changes. Nothing in Mr. Sunshine’s denials would preclude a zoning deal tomorrow.
Indeed, doublespeak abounds among NU’s allies. Tonight the Mayor misleadingly claimed that “this Council” has not had secret discussions about upzoning the T1 and T2 districts. She did not, of course, deny what Mr. Sunshine has admitted: that NU has had such discussions with the city manager and at least one alderman, or that they in turn have had secret discussions with other aldermen.
This is the problem when government operates in secret: obfuscation and prevarication reign while the taxpaying public struggles just to learn what its purported “representatives” are doing in their name. Reporters who suppress the facts and tout the spin only further undermine democracy.
When will the council excercise sound leadership?
The entire issue with discussions with NU Points to the council real lack of good judgement. Trust us to hold private meetings to buy real estate? Will the public best interest be served? Or will we waste Millions of dollars? The council will no doubt over pay for the real estate whom ever we buy it from!
The entire Civic Center process has turn into a huge waste of our tax dollars. It will Cost us millions of dollars in unnecessary expenses.
It is very clear to me the majority of council members have little knowledge or experience to excercise sound leadership to get a civic center built.
A few points:
Maybe council members should ask NU to donate the land to the city.
Maybe council members should have a developer build a high rise condo over the civic center to cut cost.
Maybe we should elminate some of the useless city employees we have and downsize city government so we need a much smaller civic center. About 1/3 less in size.
Maybe we should preserve the existing Civic center by turning it into condos and protect the open space.
Ofcourse None of this is likely to happen – but we can only wish.
Once again, the City
Once again, the City Council , in the guise of allegedly doing what’s best for us are selling the community out to whichever land-grabber their financial counsel will recommend. It is a choice on the part of the council to offer to swap the current Civic Center property for the desired parking lot. In fact, it might well be mutually beneficial. By swapping the current Civic Center property, they cannot be blamed for spending on land to buy a new site; Northwestern would benefit by obtaining land just on the edge of campus close to other buildings that it owns. The university could then sell it off to a developer with no recourse for the average taxpayer and the alderman walk away blameless. Gee, NU could turn the current Civic Center into a demonstration building for “Green Restoration”. Put in a geothermal heating system, solar collectors on the top of the building to support power, and then either subdivide the building into housing for professors or convert it back into office space for staff. NU certainly has the deep pockets for such a venture. NU could then even do something really radical and sell off some of the single-family housing and get that real estate back on the tax rolls.
Of course,this would mean that egos on both sides of the discussion would have to take a back seat and
the interests of outside developers would not likely be served.
Like you said, Junad, not likely to happen, although this Council may surprise us.
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