Northwestern students’ return to Evanston presents concerns for residents

Over+90+local+businesses+in+Evanston+have+been+adopted+as+part+of+the+community%E2%80%99s+Adopt-a-Shop+Program.+

Daily file photo by Zoe Malin

Over 90 local businesses in Evanston have been adopted as part of the community’s Adopt-a-Shop Program.

Sam Heller, Assistant City Editor

As students return to Evanston and adjust to pandemic measures, city residents are also adjusting to having students back in town.

Many residents are worried about students being back — especially when it comes to their compliance with Illinois COVID-19 guidelines.

“We are very happy for the students to be our neighbors, but we have to ensure that not only
are the students safe and healthy, but so is the broader community,” Ald. Robin Rue Simmons (5th) said.

Rue Simmons said some residents have complained directly to her about students living in off-campus housing, which prompted a 5th Ward town hall meeting this Thursday with Northwestern’s executive director for neighborhood and community relations, Dave Davis.

Residents’ largest concerns have been large gatherings off campus and encounters with dozens of students not wearing masks in downtown Evanston, Rue Simmons said.

Some residents have also mentioned being worried about the underclassmen who are returning as well and moving to off-campus housing, thus increasing the number of students who are not under Northwestern’s direct watch.

However, some Evanston businesses are projecting a loss in revenue without all the students coming back to campus. The financial impact of COVID-19 has already hurt many of them, leading some businesses, such as Unicorn Cafe and Barnes & Noble, to shut down.

“I am projecting lost revenue from the freshmen and sophomore not returning on top of already a very difficult, six months of COVID impact to our business community,” Rue Simmons said. “I don’t remember in my lifetime seeing as many vacant as we have we have currently.”

However, even with the negative impact to businesses, some believe the risk of having the students back on campus outweighs the increased revenue students would bring.

Dave’s New Kitchen relies heavily on student business. But the restaurant’s manager, Peter Jones, said safety has to be the first priority in decision making, much like the restaurant’s decision to delay opening outdoor seating in the summer. At the time, they had spent a lot of time weighing their options and waited until early July until they felt that it would be safe, he said.

“While it might bring less business to us for there to be fewer students around in the immediate present, we also need to be thinking about the long term,” Jones said.

As an Evanston resident as well, Jones is particularly worried about the upcoming football season and the large tailgates that may result.

Ken Proskie, a resident who lives in the immediate vicinity of Ryan Field, said he has not heard as many concerns about students returning from his neighbors, but he is still worried when looking at viral videos of parties at other schools that have remained open.

“I do think that everybody, including students have to be responsible in a different way,” Proskie said. “If everybody does that, I don’t anticipate there to be a bigger outboard in the community about this.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @samheller5

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