Construction to deplete NU parking spots

Sasha Talcott

Northwestern will lose 187 parking spaces Monday when it begins construction of a new life sciences building, compounding a campus parking crunch that one driver described as “miserable.”

Construction crews will close off 162 spots in the parking lot near the Allen Center and 25 spots in the lot adjacent to the Materials and Life Sciences Building when they break ground for the new building next week, said Quentin Bruhn, a senior project manager for Facilities Management.

“It’s significant because it’s the central parking lot on campus,” he said. “There’s a lot of pressure on that lot.”

And Bruhn said the parking problem will only get worse when construction of the new Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation Journalism Center begins in the next few weeks, as construction crews reduce the number of spaces in the lot near Fisk Hall.

Although demand for parking permits continues to increase, construction projects have reduced the number of spots in the center of campus with no solution in sight, said Speech Prof. Steven Zecker, chairman of NU’s parking committee.

“It’s only getting worse,” Zecker said. “I don’t think we can wait much longer (to build new parking) without putting ourselves into a risky situation.”

When construction is completed, he said, NU will need to hire additional employees to staff those buildings, further contributing to the parking problem. At the same time, NU has increased the quantity and price of parking permits sold each year.

“This is a serous problem,” Zecker said. “It’s a quality of life issue. It bothers a lot of people.”

The 16-person committee, officially called the Evanston Parking and Traffic Advisory Committee, is scheduled to meet today to look at solutions to the parking problem.

Bruhn said there are still enough parking spaces on the fringes of campus and at Ryan Field to accommodate displaced cars. And after the two-year construction project is finished, NU faculty and staff will be able to park in about 50 of the original 187 slots, Bruhn said.

“Hopefully, the university as a whole will benefit from the construction of those two buildings,” Bruhn said. “(The parking loss) is an outcome of the need of the university to expand constructed space.”

Zecker said the committee has several options when dealing with the parking crunch, including reducing the number of permits, building an above-ground parking garage or encouraging faculty and staff to park farther away from campus. Although the committee has considered constructing underground parking, that option would be too expensive, he said.

Roger Ross, a financial assistant in NU’s Catalysis Center, called parking “miserable” and said he fights for a spot even though he arrives before 9 a.m.

“It’s aggravating,” said Ross, who parked his car outside Annenberg Hall on Wednesday. “We pay an ever-larger amount of money, but we still struggle to get parking. I’m willing to pay for it, but give me a parking spot.”

Education lecturer Mary Goosby said she adjusts her schedule to avoid the early-morning parking rush, arriving at NU around 11 a.m.

“It has created a little problem, especially early in the day, ” she said. “You just target your time to come in when classes are being dismissed so you can hop in a spot someone has vacated.”

After sending out a campuswide e-mail warning faculty and students about the construction, Bruhn said he received several angry responses from faculty and students, who complained that the construction made it difficult for them to walk to North Campus.

He said the impending construction has “created some discontent” because the amount of parking has decreased although permit fees remain remain high. On-campus parking permits cost about $300 a year, and parking at Ryan Field costs $25 a year.

“I’m just following the direction of the university,” Bruhn said. “I’m the one who’s putting up the fence, but I’m not driving the actual need. I’m just the implementor.”