Schapiro: Northwestern helped secure planned Trader Joe’s in Evanston

Marshall Cohen

Update: City spokesman Eric Palmer emailed The Daily the following statement from Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl on Wednesday morning: “Northwestern President Schapiro is correct; Northwestern University did play an important role in bringing Trader Joe’s to Evanston and should be thanked. I apologize for the omission and I am thanking Northwestern now.”

University President Morton Schapiro told The Daily on Tuesday he was “surprised” when city officials did not mention the University’s role in brokering the deal to bring Trader Joe’s to Evanston during the highly publicized rollout last week.

Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl joined four aldermen and other top city officials Friday for a press conference announcing the planned development of a Trader Joe’s specialty grocery store at the former Blockbuster site, 1211 Chicago Ave.

Schapiro told The Daily the University owned the alley directly north of the proposed Trader Joe’s site. He said the deal to bring the store to Evanston “wouldn’t have happened” if the University hadn’t been willing to sell or swap that particular parcel of land.

“In everybody’s enjoyment or happiness, no one mentioned that we brokered the thing,” Schapiro said. “It’s amazing that somehow that was forgotten, so I’m surprised no one ever mentioned us. All I wanted for that one was a ‘thank you’ for the help behind the scenes by Northwestern.”

Neither Tisdahl nor Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd), whose ward will include the new store, mentioned NU during the press conference. No University officials were present at the event, and a news release issued earlier Friday similarly omitted mention of the University’s involvement.

“We’re an important economic engine at this town,” Schapiro said. “It would have been nice if there had been someone (at the event).”

City spokesman Eric Palmer did not respond to multiple phone messages and emails seeking comment Tuesday afternoon.

University spokesman Al Cubbage also said he was “surprised” by the omission.

“There was nothing in the news release, nothing to my understanding in any of the comments by city officials, so maybe they just forgot,” Cubbage said. “Perhaps Alderman Wynne didn’t know.”

Tisdahl said Friday that Wynne spearheaded the city’s efforts to land the specialty grocery store. Wynne did not respond to phone messages and emails seeking comment Tuesday.

Regardless of the apparent omission, Schapiro said the University “loves being a partner” with Evanston and said he enjoys an incredibly strong relationship with top city officials, including Tisdahl and City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz. Schapiro said city officials are usually highly enthusiastic in their praise for the University, as the two entities regularly coordinate on projects.

Schapiro said NU would be represented at the Trader Joe’s groundbreaking ceremony, which should occur in the first quarter of 2013.

“We’ll be there cutting the ribbon – don’t worry,” he said.

[email protected]