Northwestern will invest nearly $500 million in Chicago-centered improvement projects as part of an agreement with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office.
Although this was the first time NU signed such an agreement with the city — called a memorandum of understanding — Jennifer Kunde, NU’s executive director of government relations, said the program started when Mayor Emanuel first came into office in 2011.
“It’s not money that we’re giving to the city per se,” Kunde said. “It’s money we’re investing into projects that will ultimately benefit the city, and that’s what (Mayor Rahm Emanuel) really wanted to recognize.”
Many of NU’s agreements, which were signed last month, focus on the Streeterville campus, home to the University’s downtown Chicago branch.
The biggest aspect of the project is the construction of the new Simpson-Querrey Biomedical Research Center, Kunde said. The center, which Kunde said will open in May 2018, will have a University-estimated $4 billion impact on Chicago’s economy in its first decade. Its construction, which will be funded by the University, will cost $455 million, Kunde said.
The agreement also addresses investment in programs such as Northwestern Academy, Chicago Anchors for a Strong Economy and NU’s Good Neighbor, Great University program.
Although other universities, including the University of Chicago, have similar agreements with the city, Kunde said the limited space for development on NU’s downtown campus pushed NU to look beyond construction as a means of investing in the city.
“What we did just a little bit differently than some of the other universities is focus on our programmatic partnerships with the city,” Kunde said. “Streeterville is already quite developed. We’re going to enhance and potentially grow existing partnerships with the city.”
In order to help with the collaboration, the city agreed to provide NU with a liaison to deal with the implementation of these projects. Kunde will serve as NU’s liaison to the city from her office downtown, which John D’Angelo, NU’s vice president of Facilities Management, said will help NU’s relationship with the city “thrive.”
“The transparency that you share through a relationship helps both parties understand each other’s intent,” he said.
The city’s liaison will be a staffer in the planning unit of the Chicago Department of Planning and Development, said Peter Strazzabosco, the department’s deputy commissioner.
NU was one of eight Chicago-area institutions to sign memoranda of understanding with the city on Dec. 16. In total, the plans equate to $2.5 billion in economic and community investments and are expected to provide more than 10,000 Chicago construction jobs.
“Half of the campus is in the city,” Kunde said, “and we really cherish our role as a Chicago institution, as well.”
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