Northwestern University officials say they will ask Evanston’s Zoning Board of Appeals to delay until January a hearing on a challenge by two neighbors to the school’s use of a former seminary dining hall.

Northwestern University officials say they will ask Evanston’s Zoning Board of Appeals to delay until January a hearing on a challenge by two neighbors to the school’s use of a former seminary dining hall.

The university purchased the dining hall at 610 Haven St., and other properties on the west side of Sheridan Road this summer from Seabury-Western Seminary, which is scaling back its operations.

The Seabury complex includes dormitories, apartments, offices and classroom space as well as the dining hall.

The neighbors, George Gaines and his wife, claim the conversion of the dining hall to a facility called the “Great Room” that is open until 2 a.m. exceeds the uses permitted at the site under the non-conforming use standards of the current zoning that was adopted several years ago, long after the Seabury property was constructed.

The city’s zoning staff approved the university’s plans, saying they did fit within the zoning limits, and the neighbors have appealed that approval to the ZBA.

University Vice-President Eugene Sunshine said at Wednesday’s NU/City Committee meeting that the school will be on break when the ZBA is now scheduled to take up the case on Dec. 15, and would prefer to have the case heard on Jan. 19, when students — who would be affected by any change to the property’s use — will be back on campus and able to attend the hearing.

Sunshine said the neighbors’ concept of what a dining hall is — a place where only residents of the building itself would go to have meals — doesn’t fit the way university dining services operate these days.

He said students now are free to eat at any dining hall on campus — in part to make it easier for students who have classes at the opposite end of campus from their residence to get a meal without a long hike back to their dorm and also to provide students with a greater variety of food selections.

The Seabury buildings are located in a transitional zone adopted by the city to try to appease neighbors’ concerned about university expansion into the largely residential neighborhood west of Sheridan Road.

The neighbors have claimed the new use amounts to a restaurant open to the public. But the university officials note that signs on the entrance specify that, like other dining halls, it is only open to university students, faculty, staff, alumni and their guests.

Related stories

Neighbors file zoning petition against Great Room (Daily Northwestern)

City: NU following rules on Seabury takeover

NU Acquires Seabury buildings, land

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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2 Comments

  1. Great Room and Lights
    A prior message about the Great Room claimed [by neighbors I assume] the TVs shown in their houses. Only two houses would be possible, the TV is perpendicular to their windows, their bedrooms [given the hours they complained about] would have to be in the front of the house and if you go by there you can barely even see the TVs or lights from them.
    Have these people never lived by a business or school [NU and Seabury were there long before them] ?
    Sounds more like NU bashing for any possible excuse !

  2. Kellogg Business School [of Wilmette?]
    Probably no one at NU has even considered but given some of the hostility towards NU, has it ever thought about Harvard Business School and the athletic field not being in Cambridge but in Allison ?
    Perhaps Wilmette would love to have Kellogg and annex Ryan Field ? There are probably Evanston residents that would be happy to have fewer students roaming the city and have Wilmette take-over crowd control at Ryan Field.

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