One of the most well-known lyrics in popular music is the phrase, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot” from the Joni Mitchell hit, “Big Yellow Taxi.” Now Northwestern University plans to reverse that process.

The area now used for parking and construction staging that’s to be turned into a green space.

One of the most well-known lyrics in popular music is the phrase, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot” from the Joni Mitchell hit, “Big Yellow Taxi.” Now Northwestern University plans to reverse that process.

University officials today announced plans to replace two parking lots in the central part of Northwestern’s Evanston campus with a two-acre green space. Located just south of Silverman Hall and Annenberg Hall and west of the Allen Center, the new Mid-Campus Green will feature a broad lawn area, extensive landscaping and pedestrian walkways.

The main parking lot just west of the Allen Center since last year has been a construction site and staging area for work associated with expansion of Northwestern’s underground steam and chilled water distribution system.

With that work nearing completion, the University plans to create additional green space rather than rebuild the parking lot. In addition, the University will convert a small parking lot south of Annenberg Hall into a landscaped area. That space will provide a handicapped-accessible pathway from the walkway on the west side of Annenberg down a small hill to the Mid-Campus Green.

Creating the new green spaces follows the University’s Framework Plan, which guides the long-term development of the Evanston campus, said Eugene S. Sunshine, senior vice president for business and finance. The plan, which was adopted in 2009 after extensive input from students, faculty and staff, calls for the creation of additional green space in the center of campus and pushing parking to the edges of campus.

“The Mid-Campus Green will provide an oasis in the center of campus while strengthening pedestrian links between north and south campus,” Sunshine said. “In addition, it will extend the existing landscaped area near the science buildings further south toward the University Library. Our goal, as was outlined in the Framework Plan, continues to be to make the campus more pedestrian-friendly and provide green spaces throughout campus.”

A road currently open to all vehicles that goes east from the large parking lot in the center of campus between Swift Hall of Science and Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary will become essentially a service road.

The road will continue to provide access for service vehicles for the Allen Center, University Library and the Central Utility Plant, as well as for emergency access. A small parking area will be located on the east side of the Green next to the Allen Center for guest drop-off and associated parking.

Cars will no longer be able to travel from the central parking lot to the west side of the Allen Center and then go north to the lots north of the Allen Center and east of Cook Hall. The change is expected to reduce significantly the amount of vehicle traffic in the center of campus.

Work on the underground utilities in the area is expected to be completed in June. Conversion of the construction site to the new green space will begin immediately afterwards, with completion expected in December and final landscape planting to be completed in spring 2013.

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  1. Where will NU build more parking?

    "pushing parking to the edges of campus"

    I hope NU will be up front with its host community about where it plans to build the parking that it's pushing to the edge of campus, i.e., toward the surrounding residential neighborhoods. What form will the parking take? Will it be ample to the demands of those who work and study at NU? Will this new parking take more taxable properties off the Evanston tax rolls? Perhaps NU will tear down some of its own buildings and put up a parking structure?

    Parking on campus is extremely problematic for campus visitors, vendors, students, and university staff. Evanston officials need to hold NU to the same standards for providing off-street parking that it holds any other developer and homeowner. 

    1. Host community?!?

      NU has been around longer than its "host community."  They are better at managing its finances (NU's budget makes Evanston's budget and budgeting process feel like I live in Mayberry).  They are better at funding capital projects.  They are better at making itself into one of the best institutions in the world.  Better at educating future world, business and even local community leaders.  Do I really need to go on?   I didn't even go to NU (same school as our City Manager – Syracuse just six years later) but even I can see that NU makes the world a much better place.  I would much rather have trouble parking knowing that there is a Northwestern instead of having ample parking like you will find in any "host community" garage or lot other areas of town.  If Evanston officials held NU to the same standard, well, the image of the Titanic comes to mind.  Maybe what you suggest should be reversed…  Have NU manage Evanston?  They couldn't do any worse.

      1. Silly comparison between NU admin & Evanston’s

        Ok, so NU is "better at managing its finances" than Evanston?!?!! 

        NU's tuition is $45,000 and has been rising at 4-5% a year for more than a decade!  

        Are you saying you want to pay $45,000 per year in taxes?!?!?

        Silly  comparison–it figures you went to Syracuse!

        1. Because NU charges 45K for

          Because NU charges 45K for tuition you seem to imply that NU is not doing a good job of managing their finances. 

          The annual increase of 4-5% is meaningless.  Simply put, NU charges what the market demand allows them to charge.  Their application rates have been trending upwards and I believe are currently at record levels, even at 45K.  Which basically means they would probably be justified in charging even more.

          Pretty basic pricing strategy based on supply and demand and indicates that indeed, NU is actually very good at managing it's finances.    

          Silly?  I don't think that would be the Syracuse poster. 

    2. This simply doesn’t make sense

      First of all, parking is not "extremely problematic" on the campus.  At all hours of the day there are spaces available in virtually all lots.  The problem is that everyone wants to park right next to their class/office. 

      I didn't see anywhere in the article that NU is planning on building more parking.  The north campus area has already added spaces and the south beach structure will be expanded soon.  That should be sufficient to meet the future needs. 

  2. Once planned NU parking off campus

    I was surprised by the story.  I'd thought, apparently wrongly, that this was the spot Kellogg had planned the new building on.


    Years ago [probably 15] NU talked [planned for?] a multi-story parking structure at Maple between Foster and Emerson [over existing grad student dorm parking lot].  I don't know what killed the idea.

    A few years ago [7?] I wrote the Roundtable 'Traffic Guy' who said it was being considered again.  It appears to have died again.


    Several years ago NU was going to fill-in part of the Lagoon [had EPA and others approval] until residents and alumni heard about it.  I seem to remember part of it was parking.


    When Roycemore moved I assumed much of the parking on the west side of it would drop but it has not—must be students and NU people in the offices around there.  Oddly Orrington parking south of Colfax is [comparable] light unless I'm not seeing signs that limit non-resident parking there.

    1. Parking on Orrington

      Orrington Avenue near Northwestern is unique in that both sides of the street are restricted to resident-only (resident-permit) parking. In other city neighborhoods that kind of restriction is only granted on ONE side of each block.

  3. Parking at NU

    Northwestern's idea of providing parking is to call the Ryan Field parking lot "on campus" parking, when that's really only a practical solution for those who work full time at the university, not for anyone who needs to visit campus during the daytime, or who might visit south campus for any kind of event, concert, theater performance, etc.

    NU acts like any other business, institution or individual citizen in town when it comes to things like land use and building: it looks out for its own interests first. It may be in Northwestern's interests to, say, buy a couple of acres off campus somewhere, take them off the tax rolls and throw up a 10-story parking garage for which it will charge market rates. That's not necessarily in Evanston's best interests. Put another way, I can only hope the wise leaders over at NU build their new parking lot next to YOUR home.

    The day Evanston can sell a product with the same market demand and virtually no upward price limit as an NU degree will be the day Evanston's management (read "money") problems are solved. It's easy to look smart when you're already rich.


    1. No need to try to scare us…

      … with stories about 10 story lots springing up in neighborhoods.  Not going to happen– zoning would never allow for it and there is little demand for remote parking.

      Cuurently there is ample parking on campus, and with the construction of a new South Beach lot there will be even more.  And with the price of gas impacting driving habits (and public transportation available), who knows– the demand for on-campus parking may have already peaked

      As for Ryan Field, NU doesn't claim this is the only (or best) solution– it is an option for those who don't need a car on campus and wish to save $500/ year on a permit.  There are 100's of spaces there; why not put some to use?  I can't understand why this should be controversial.

      Bottom line: here is no reason to believe that this will impact people from outside NU in any way.  However, I do understand that if it relates to NU in any way it must be controversial and some will feel compelled to forecast dire consequences.

  4. NU parking and zoning requirements

    Someone here wrote that NU doesn't have a parking problem.  Really?  That is just not true. In fact, they have a huge parking problem.

    Talk with almost any student, visitor or staff member. Even future students to the campus (parents with their high school juniors in tow) have trouble finding parking.

    How they continue to build new buildings – look at all of the new science buildings and dorms built in the last 10 years – but no new parking of any significance has been added.

    How is this possible with Evanston's zoning laws which require new spaces for any new building?  Does the City of Evanston just wink and look the other way?

    It doesn't make any sense, as someone suggested, that you can say Ryan Field is the parking for some new building that is two miles away.

    Could any developer get away with a two mile distance from their building to their parking lot.  I think the zoning board would just laugh. How is Northwestern meeting the zoning requirements with their recent buildings?

    1. Parking for prospective students and their parents

      Two months ago NU announced plans for a new visitors center with a 435-car parking garage.

      Find the story here.

      — Bill

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