College will sell Evanston property

The departure of National-Louis University’s Evanston campus could make Northwestern the only remaining college in Evanston and could leave an Evanston elementary school in need of a new home.

National-Louis officials announced April 28 that they planned to sell their 6.5-acre campus on the Evanston-Wilmette border in favor of a new location with updated facilities. The move may force Baker Demonstration School to move as well.

National-Louis is the second college or university in the past six months to announce plans to sell its Evanston property, after Kendall College finalized plans in November to sell its campus adjacent to NU and move to a more modern facility in Chicago.

National-Louis decided to relocate to make the school more accessible to its large commuter population, said Chris Anderson, vice president for public affairs at National-Louis.

Maintenance in the school’s old stone buildings was expensive, making technological updates and expansion difficult. Anderson said the university decided to spend the money elsewhere.

“Since (the campus) is not well-located for our current students, we thought those were resources that were better used somewhere else,” he said.

Although the university doesn’t have any specific sites in mind, the new campus likely will be within 10 miles of the school’s current location, near a highway or interstate, Anderson said.

He said university officials hope to announce the new location within the next six months and to complete the move within the next two years.

Judith Aiello, Evanston’s assistant city manager, said the city has never had any issues with National-Louis.

“There are always issues of traffic and parking when you have a campus right next to a residential area,” Aiello said. “But I think, as with any issue, we were able to work those things out.”

Wilmette has never had any problems with National-Louis either, said John Adler, director of community development for the Village of Wilmette. Although National-Louis calls its campus on Sheridan Road the “Evanston” campus, the majority of the campus actually lies in Wilmette, with only one-ninth of the campus in Evanston.

National-Louis’ announcement also could mean that Baker Demonstration School, a laboratory school on the university’s campus, will need to decide if it has to move. The school was founded by a precursor of National-Louis University, which still provides management oversight and financial support for Baker, said Bill Melsheimer, the school’s interim director.

“Essentially we practice what is preached in the college of education,” Melsheimer said.

Melsheimer said he doesn’t know if Baker, which has 315 students in preschool through eighth grade, will remain in its current location, move with National-Louis or open another school somewhere else.

But he said the school has an agreement with National-Louis to remain in its current location for at least the next two school years. He said National-Louis approached Baker last fall about establishing financial independence for the laboratory school, and now Baker is working out the details of the school’s separation from National-Louis.

“We are waiting until the negotiations are finalized to figure out where we go from here,” Melsheimer said. “There will have to be a great amount of planning that will have to take place.”

Allen Steinberg, chair of the Baker Parent Organization and parent of a first grade student at Baker, said students at Baker benefit from the university environment National-Louis provides. And although the university’s decision to move will mean challenging times for the school, he never would consider taking his son out of Baker.

“This is the hand we’re being dealt,” Steinberg said, “and we just have to make the best of that hand.”