The proposed redevelopment of Northwestern University’s Ryan Field was the main topic of the discussion at the Second Ward meeting Tuesday, Jan. 24, with school officials dominating the conversation.
“We feel that this project is going to provide generational benefits for individuals from Howard Street all the way to Isabella [Street],” said Dave Davis, executive director of neighborhood and community relations at Northwestern.
About 40 people attended the nearly three-hour long virtual meeting, with about a third of the meeting concentrating on the Ryan Field discussion.
Davis was there representing Northwestern as was Steven Himes, senior project manager; Luke Figora, vice president for operations; and Peter Braithwaite, director of procurement and community engagement.
“Being the newest council member, I’m still learning things. So, I’m neutral. It’s important that both sides of this issue are heard and heard clearly,” said Second Ward Council Member Krissie Harris.
Ryan Field discussion
Northwestern officials dominated the conversation and have been touring a number of the ward meetings to discuss the stadium. In response, only about four people spoke up, all of whom were against the proposal.
“There has been no community focus meeting around our thoughts about this program. That really is concerning to me,” said Trisha Connolly, acting secretary for Feeding the Village, an Evanston-based non-profit organization and a former District 65 librarian. Connolly noted that as a public non-profit institution, the university doesn’t pay property taxes.
Others pressed officials on Northwestern’s tax liability and investment in the community.
Davis acknowledged the institution’s property tax status, but said the school pays a number of state, federal and local taxes. The redeveloped stadium, he added, will bolster the city’s tax base through alcohol sales and concert revenues.
The stadium renovation is expected to take more than two years following the conclusion of the 2023 season, with a targeted reopening of fall 2026, Himes said.
Redistricting in the Second Ward
Harris also added to the meeting agenda the city’s redistricting and its effect on the Second Ward, with Fourth Ward Council Member Jonathan Nieuwsma, who is leading the effort, speaking to ward residents.
Ward lines could be redrawn in the process, said Nieuwsma, who chairs the redistricting committee. While the committee is gathering public input, the council member said part of the Second Ward, the city’s second-largest ward, could go to the Fifth or potentially Fourth Wards under the proposed maps.
These are expected to go before city council this April. The 2025 city council elections are the first time people will be voting under the new ward map, Nieuwsma said.
Nieuwsma’s committee is holding a hybrid joint meeting 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 26, at Y.O.U., 1711 Church St., with Fifth Ward Council Member Bobby Burns. Those unable to attend in-person can join virtually.
In recent months, the city has lost a number of longstanding businesses, including Clarke’s Off Campus and Flat Top Grill. However, there’s reason to be positive, said Paul Zalmezak, the city’s economic development manager, who noted several new businesses, including Big Wig Tacos, Devil Dawgs and Egg Harbor Cafe are set to come to the Second Ward, with the latter two filling the Terra and Vine spot.
Evanston Police Officer Otha Brooks shared the latest crime data. Between Dec. 24 and Jan. 23, the department recorded seven assault and battery cases, an armed robbery at the Fifth Third Bank and 15 thefts, Brooks said. With an apparent rise in motor vehicle thefts, the police department urged people to use a garage if they have one. The department also coordinated a steering wheel lock giveaway, which filled up quickly. However, Officer Cesar Galindo said the department hopes to restart the program.