Evanston Preservation Commission votes against proposed Northwestern visitors center

Susan Du, City Editor

Evanston’s Preservation Commission on Tuesday unanimously voted against Northwestern’s plan to build a new visitors center on Sheridan Road. However, the panel’s decision could be overturned by the city council on Monday, Evanston Now reported this morning.

At its meeting, the commission denied the University’s request for a certificate of appropriateness, which is required before any alteration, construction, demolition or relocation in Evanston, according to city codes.

Among the commission’s concerns about the proposed visitor center are its size and location on Sheridan Road. Some suggested the building did not belong in the greater context of the Evanston community and others protested the plan because they said the proposed visitor center is too far removed in style from landmark buildings on NU’s campus.

Bonnie Humphrey, the University’s director of design and construction, said the city’s zoning code requires adding parking, which the Sheridan Road location could accommodate. She said the new building would fit in with the campus’s many contemporary buildings, which feature limestone and glass. 

University spokesman Alan Cubbage told The Daily this afternoon that the commission is only one of several city divisions NU has been in contact with regarding the proposed visitors center. Despite the panel’s decision to blocking the plan, the University looks forward to making its case before the full city council on Monday, Cubbage said.

“It’s a disappointment of course. The new visitors center is something that will, in our minds, enhance the campus quite a bit and also alleviate some of the problems that currently exist with the current visitor’s center that are a bit of a concern to the local neighbors,” Cubbage said, citing community complaints about too many cars parked near the existing visitors center. “So what we’re trying to do is create a place that’s going to be a real showcase for the University, a very striking building.”

— Susan Du