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The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Second Ryan Field hearing draws crowds as NU’s push for city approval continues

Saul Pink/The Daily Northwestern
After the Land Use Commission collectively heard 13 hours of testimony about Ryan Field, these ordinances will be the only topic of discussion at the meeting.

Over 100 people packed a Land Use Commission meeting Wednesday night for the second installment of a hearing on Northwestern’s contentious proposal to rebuild Ryan Field and host six concerts annually at the new stadium. 

The four-hour meeting was part of NU’s first step to gain city approval for the project, which has been the subject of an intense town-gown debate since the University announced its $800 million plan last fall. Wednesday night’s marathon meeting was the second of three Land Use Commission meetings dedicated to the project – a usual routine first step for land use projects aiming to get the greenlight from the city. 

The meeting started with public comment from nearly 40 residents who signed up to share their thoughts on the project, followed by continued presentations by community organizations who started presenting at the initial meeting in early September. 

Some residents shared support for the project and its potential to boost Evanston’s economy, but most people who stepped up to the microphone voiced their disapproval of NU’s plan to host for-profit concerts.

Opponents of the project centered on the noise and traffic that concerts could generate. 

“Really, I’m just not sure what I’m supposed to tell my kids when they can’t sleep at 11 p.m.,” said Eric Harper, who lives next to the stadium. “Is Northwestern going to distribute ear protection?”

Multiple residents expressed concern about the increased traffic concerts could bring, blocking access to NorthShore Evanston Hospital on Ridge Avenue and Central Street. 

Evanston-based attorney Scott Gingold submitted a report to the commission expressing skepticism of NU’s transportation plan, which estimates that over 10,000 people will use public transportation to get to and from concerts. The plan said the University intends to use shuttles to transport people from downtown parking facilities to the stadium.

“All of Evanston will be negatively impacted, because literally all of the city’s available parking, all of the city’s public transportation and roadways … are to be consumed by concert goers, who by the way, will then sit inside Ryan Field for three to four hours, spending money there and not in downtown Evanston,” he said. 

Audience members held signs with a variety of slogans, ranging from “No Rezoning” to “Respect our Neighborhoods” to “60-208” — a play on Ryan Field’s zip code and NU’s claim that the project will generate $208 million for minority-owned and women-owned businesses. The attendees erupted in cheers and, sometimes, boos, in reaction to public comments.

Community activist and former City Council candidate Darlene Cannon said NU was being “divisive” and pitting stadium neighbors against Black residents by touting the project’s economic impact on Black neighborhoods.

“It’s insulting to Black people’s intelligence that the zoning change and the stadium is going to create generational wealth,” Cannon said. “It will provide low-income, hourly jobs at best.”

Wednesday’s meeting follows a Tuesday night protest held by Evanston residents, who marched from Lighthouse Beach to the Civic Center to call for a Community Benefits Agreement. The Ryan Field debate has reignited talks about NU engaging in a Community Benefits Agreement between NU and Evanston, which a city-commissioned report on the projected economic impact of the rebuild recommended. 

During public comment, SESP sophomore Anusha Kumar encouraged NU to make “meaningful investments in affordable housing for low-income residents and the public school system.”

The meeting also prompted theatrics from attendees that demonstrated the tension between the University and some residents over the project. One public commenter dropped a stack of printed emails he sent to NU that he said went unresponded. Another brought a figurine of Pinnochio to symbolize their opinion that the University was lying about aspects of the project.

“Something is rotten in the state of Evanston-Northwestern relations,” said Evanston resident Aaron Cohen.

Nonetheless, the meeting is just one step in a long road in approval of the project. The Land Use Commission plans to continue deliberations on Oct. 11, a meeting that will feature a cross-examination of NU as well as the University’s closing statements, according to commission chair Matt Rodgers. 

Then, the commissioners will vote on whether to recommend approval to the Planning & Development Committee and, ultimately, City Council.

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @saullpink

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Northwestern Ryan Field rebuild hearing draws crowd of Evanston residents

Northwestern Accountability Alliance, Evanston residents rally against Ryan Field commercial rezoning

City-commissioned Ryan Field study finds that rebuild, concerts could generate $77.8 million for Evanston

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