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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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NU officials face criticism about Ryan Field as residents challenge demolition

Shun Graves/The Daily Northwestern
Demolition crews rolled in about two weeks ago at Ryan Field, but the actual start of razing the football stadium remains up in the air.

Northwestern officials showed up to Wednesday’s NU-City Committee meeting with plans to improve communications with residents — though they had few details on Ryan Field’s still-looming demolition.

Ald. Clare Kelly (1st), the chair of the committee, chastised officials for offering scant details on the controversial stadium rebuild’s current status. 

But, Dave Davis, the University’s senior executive director of Neighborhood and Community Relations, said many details are still up in the air.

“We are not the construction manager or experts in that area,” Davis said. “Besides litigating what we can and can’t talk about — just having a very conscientious and courteous conversation issue — even if we were to raise that right now, we don’t have that specific expertise to answer those questions.”

Last month, demolition crews rolled into the Ryan Field site, dropping off equipment and construction materials in front of the dormant stadium. Still, the four-month demolition of NU athletics’ nearly century-old citadel requires a permit from the city’s Building and Inspection Services Division to begin. 

The project has not received the demolition permit yet, according to Luke Figora, NU’s chief operating officer and vice president for operations. The byzantine permit process involves multiple layers of review by city staff.

“I would defer to the city on the status of permits,” Figora said, adding that the project’s overall timeline remains unchanged even if the piece-by-piece demolition has no definite start date.

Davis and Figora said Wednesday they aim to improve communication with residents as the demolition proceeds. NU will soon update its Rebuild Ryan Field website with construction updates, and the University will also unveil a dedicated phone line for residents’ concerns, they said.

However, their terse responses about the demolition itself drew brickbats from Kelly.

“I’m discouraged when I hear both of you looking for ways to avoid touching on topics here, like, ‘Maybe it doesn’t quite touch the parking lot, so we’re not going to talk about it,’” she said. “I would think you would embrace talking about anything that neighbors are concerned about or want to talk about at this committee.”

Kelly emerged as a prominent critic of the Ryan Field rebuild in the run-up to the City Council’s narrow approval of the project last year. She alleged she had been excluded from discussing the city’s agreement with Northwestern and lambasted Mayor Daniel Biss as overly favorable to NU’s demands.

After Wednesday’s meeting, Kelly told The Daily she’s heard from residents asking if she would run for higher office after the current City Council approved the Ryan Field rebuild. She hasn’t considered running for mayor, she said, but the suggestion has turned some gears.

“Not yet, I haven’t gotten to that yet,” Kelly told The Daily, but added that questions about running remain “percolating” in her mind.

Rising murmurs about next year’s election show stadium foes’ chagrin about the project has yet to subside. Most Livable City Association filed a lawsuit against Evanston in November, alleging the city’s zoning change to allow for concerts arose after “clandestine steps” in favor of NU. Cook County Circuit Court has set a preliminary hearing in the case for March 29.

In Evanston’s 7th Ward, however, the demolition’s impact on neighbors will likely arrive before the high-flying political and legal battles. At a ward meeting last month, residents listed truck routes and work hours among their top concerns.

At Wednesday’s committee meeting, Davis pledged to answer further questions in an upcoming website update and through other avenues.

“We’ll send out a public announcement about the website and direct everybody to that page,” Davis said. “And then, if we want to have a longer conversation specifically about construction, we can host a separate meeting.”

Email: [email protected]

X: @realShunGraves

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Gallery: Last glimpse at nearly century-old Ryan Field before demolition

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Ryan Field demolition to begin in days amid 7th Ward concerns

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