Two council members who favor Northwestern University’s new stadium plans listened to more than four hours of complaints from project foes Thursday night.
Ald. Devon Reid (8th) was bullish on the memorandum of understanding negotiated with the university for the project during the Civic Center session, saying he believes there are at least five council votes for the project but admitting he’s not sure it’s a “done deal.”
But Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) suggested the city still needs to review some of the concerns raised by constituents present at the meeting.
Several speakers criticized a provision in the MOU that would have the city acknowledge that the school was relying on the city’s approval of concerts in exchange for the estimated $157 million assistance the school is providing in the stadium community benefits agreement.
They suggested that would make it hard for the city to decide in the future to ban concerts, if they proved disruptive to the community.
Reid said that he felt that the city could access equitable legal remedies or arbitration with Northwestern to address this, and other concerns dealing with legal interpretation of the MOU.
But Burns suggested the issue needs to be reviewed by the outside legal counsel recently retained by the city.
Reid said that he wants to move forward as quickly as possible with the MOU, because he feels that Northwestern may cancel its current plans if the city pushes for concessions the university feels are too onerous or increases the cost of proposed project.
The cancellation would deny the city the benefits Northwestern has promised, as well as revenue-raising opportunities that would come with the project.
“Northwestern doesn’t have to commit to a community benefits agreement with us,” Reid said. “I firmly believe this is not only a good deal for the city, but I think the project is a good project.”