Commission may change zoning for local university

Breanne Gilpatrick

Kendall College is not the only Evanston college experiencing problems after announcing plans to move. The National-Louis University campus on the Evanston-Wilmette border is not yet officially on the market, though officials announced in April that the school would soon be moving to a more accessible location. But questions already exist concerning what will happen to the property when the school leaves.

On July 14 the Evanston Plan Commission voted 3-2 in favor of rezoning the Evanston portion of the National-Louis campus for low-density, single-family use, like much of the land surrounding the campus. But because the rezoning motion needs five votes for passage, the four commission members who were absent from the meeting will vote after reviewing a transcript of the meeting. The property currently is zoned for university use.

Plan Commission Chairman Larry Widmayer said he voted in favor of the zoning change so developers know exactly what they are buying. He said this would help avoid the problems the city is having with the Kendall College property — developers purchased the property while it was still zoned for university use and have approached the city with plans for high-density housing.

But Christian Anderson, chief communications officer for National-Louis, said passing a zoning change while the university is still on the property would restrict the school’s ability to make needed renovations to the residence hall on the Evanston portion of the campus.

Anderson said although the Wilmette portion of campus is zoned for single-family use, it has not been an issue because major renovations are not needed for the buildings on that part of the property.

Larry Raffel, one of the plan commission members who voted against a change to residential zoning, said he would like to see if some other educational facility would be interested in purchasing the property.

Raffel added that he thinks it unlikely that an educational facility would seek to have the property changed back to university use after the zoning already had been changed.