Northwestern University gave Evanston city staff a look this afternoon at plans for the new Bienen Music School building on the lakefront.

Northwestern University gave Evanston city staff a look this afternoon at plans for the new Bienen Music School building on the lakefront.

Senior Project Designer Scott Syer shows a rendering of what the building will look like viewed from Lake Michigan, including the walkway open to the public along the lakefront retaining wall.

The plans call for a five-story, 155,000-square-foot building with three public performance spaces sheathed in limestone and glass-clad classroom and office areas.

In response to a question at the Site Plan and Appearance Review Committee meeting from Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, Project Manager Sue Budinsky said the plans for the building preserve the existing walkway along the lakefront.

The waterfront walkway today.

She said the walk may have to be closed during the three year construction period for the building because of safety concerns, but that during construction there at least would be access to the lake using a detour through Arts Circle Drive directly west of the building site.

Bonnie Humphrey, facilities director for the university, said the school’s goal is to start construction on the building next spring, but the schedule could be delayed because fundraising for the project is still underway.

The building is planned to wrap around the south end of the existing Regenstein Hall of Music and occupy much of what’s now an open parking lot on the east side of Arts Circle Drive. The drive will be reconfigured as part of the project.

An aerial view of the site from Google Maps.

A two-level parking deck further south will remain in use, but the university has longer-range plans to replace the deck with a combination of new buildings and a new parking structure.

Looking northeast toward the Regenstein building across the planned music school site.

Project architect Patrick Loughran said the building is planned to achieve at least a silver and possibly a gold rating for energy efficiency. He said that the performance spaces will use a double-skin facade — which is usually employed to provide thermal insulation, but in this project it will have the added benefit of providing acoustical insulation so sound doesn’t escape the performance spaces.

A rendering of the entry court for the building looking east from Arts Circle Drive toward the lake.

Walter Hallen, who chairs the city panel, noted that the project was only before the group for a concept review, at which no vote is taken, but he called it “a marvelous, large project for the campus.”

The university representatives said the school plans to preserve the landmark Music Administration Building at 711 Elgin Road, which was built in 1874 as the home of the then Evanston College for Ladies, but that a future use for that building hasn’t been determined.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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