Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Historic property debate hits state preservation listHistoric property debate hits state preservation list

It didn’t take long for the fallout from the Evanston-Northwestern lawsuit settlement to reach a statewide level.

Now that the debate over the historic nature of buildings around NU’s campus has left the judicial system, statewide preservationists are getting involved.

The Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois is seeking federal help to protect a group of eight NU buildings and one private home, which were removed from the Northeast Evanston Historic District in February’s lawsuit settlement.

The nine buildings are among 14 that the city removed from the historic district in order to settle the lawsuit. The university also paid the city $700,000 in the agreement, ending a four-year legal battle over the property.

David Bahlman, president of the Preservation Council, said the city’s decision to remove buildings from the Northeast Evanston Historic District set a bad precedent.

“It was a terrible mistake by the City of Evanston to settle,” Bahlman said. “There is no reason — other than bribery — why they should have settled this case.”

In March the Preservation Council placed the group of nine buildings on its “2004 Ten Most Endangered Historic Places” list.

The group of buildings, along Sheridan Road, and Colfax and Emerson streets, are mostly Tudor Revival and Queen Anne-style residences. Many were built in the early 1900s.

The buildings include: Delta Chi fraternity, the Institute for Policy Research, the linguistics department and the Sheil Catholic Center.

NU has no plans to redevelop any of the buildings taken out of the district, said Eugene Sunshine, NU’s senior vice president for business and finance. The settlement requires a 10-year building ban on the Sheridan Road properties.

Sunshine said the buildings are no longer used as homes. One of the buildings, 629 Colfax St., is used by art students, for example.

“We always felt that the university buildings were not historical in nature in the first place,” he said.

The university sued Evanston in federal court in 2000 after the city designated 56 buildings as historic. Properties within a historic district are subject to stricter regulations than other areas in the city, and NU would have had to go before the city’s Preservation Commission to make even minor changes to any of the buildings.

Since the settlement, Bahlman has contacted the National Trust for Historic Preservation to look into options for protecting the buildings taken out of the district.

The Illinois Preservation Council began its top ten lists in 1994. Since then, 28 of its 91 listings have been saved and 13 have been demolished.

“The hope is that this raises public awareness about how people are really fighting to retain their community,” said Judy Fiske, a member of the Northeast Evanston Historic District Association. “These buildings that make up the fabric of the community are really important.”

Fiske said her association also is concerned about the precedent created by the Evanston-NU settlement. The settlement makes it appear that other Evanston organizations or developers can buy their way out of historic status, she said.

Fiske was not surprised that the case has reached the state level. “This has gone much, much beyond our little city group,” she said.

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Historic property debate hits state preservation listHistoric property debate hits state preservation list