City Council

Northwestern University Zoning Variance Request Divides Residents

The university proposed for-profit concerts and sporting events at athletic venues

Evanston residents were divided at a meeting on Monday night over Northwestern University’s proposal to hold entertainment and commercial events at arenas near residential neighborhoods.

Evanston's City Council Planning and Development Committee voted 4-3 on Monday evening to send the proposal to the full city council for a vote. 

Northwestern University would be able to hold for-profit concerts and professional sporting events at athletic venues if a zoning variance was approved.

Although some residents supported the university’s plans, many said the variance would change the dynamic of the neighborhood they love.

"Whenever you have crowds here, you have traffic, you have potential vandalism, you have noise," one resident said.

According to a city spokesperson, the variance would apply to all venues in the U2 zoning area, which encompasses the entire Northwestern University athletic complex. However, university officials said they were only seeking to hold special events at Welsh-Ryan arena, specifically seven events per year.

Each event would have a maximum attendance of 7,000 people, officials said. As of Monday evening, the university wasn’t seeking to hold events at Ryan Field, which holds approximately 45,000 people.

However, residents worried that the variance would set the precedent for that change in the future.

"Northwestern has enormous financial resources," another resident said. "They don't need the money. They just want the money."  

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