Author’s note: This article addresses one topic that has been raised about the new Ryan Field; it is not designed to address all of the open issues that need to be resolved between the city and Northwestern University. The author supports the work to negotiate a desirable outcome with NU that addresses parking, traffic, noise concerns, policing and other issues of concern to residents.
Like many others living and working in Evanston, I am excited about the new Ryan Field proposal and the musical offerings it will bring, enhancing Evanston’s growing art and entertainment scene.
A secondary consideration, being in the real estate business, is what impact it will have on property values. I’ve heard a lot of opinions on this topic, mostly from those who are opposed to the stadium and claim the new field will negatively impact property values.
I’d like to share what I know about property values in Evanston based on my experience selling real estate here for the past 12 years.
Basic economics comes into play regarding the price of housing, just like any asset. When there is increased demand with a stable supply, prices go up, which we have seen in the Evanston market over the past few years.
When people say the new stadium will negatively impact property values, they assume demand will drop significantly for homes near the stadium once it is built. There is nothing to support this claim. The stadium has been a hub of activity for nearly 100 years and home values in the neighborhood have increased at the same rate as the rest of Evanston.
In real estate, like in life, what’s desirable to some may not be desirable to others. Many neighbors who live close to Ryan Field, including several of my clients, chose to buy a home in the neighborhood because of the proximity to athletic events and all of the excitement that comes with it; the new stadium will offer more of what they love.
There are also neighbors who think it’s a bad idea no matter what the outcome; they don’t like the current stadium events so a new stadium with more events is not what they want.
The varied response to this proposal is what we would expect to see from potential buyers. Different people like different things! There is not a universal response that would sink demand for housing near the stadium. We’d expect to see property values increase in this neighborhood as they have historically, on pace with the rest of the city
Outside of the immediate neighborhood, we also see positive outcomes for property owners. Evanston is already a very desirable destination for many different types of residents, which is one of the things we love about our community.
We often see younger families moving to Evanston from Chicago for our good schools and beautiful neighborhoods while retaining proximity to the city.
We also find empty nesters are moving from the north and western suburbs to Evanston for our great restaurants and the many entertainment options on offer, without having to go into Chicago. Like Northlight Theater, the new Ryan Field will only increase the events that draw people to our town and local businesses.
In researching the impact of new stadiums on local real estate, we found data that show home prices increase when new stadiums are built nearby.
The premium on these homes can range from 3 to 15% (reonomy.com, 2020). According to Trulia.com, two-thirds of the 31 neighborhoods containing pro football stadiums have higher housing values than non-stadium neighborhoods. (Via trulia.com, 2016)
I think it’s difficult to estimate a potential increase in values because there are so many factors that impact the value of any property, but it’s clear to me that the new development of Ryan Field will only invigorate our community by being more desirable to potential new residents, bringing new tourists to our local businesses, and adding revenue to our tax base. The fact that Northwestern is paying for all of it makes it that much more of a win for the city and its residents.
Sally Mabadi is a real estate broker and team leader at The Mabadi Group. She lives and works in Evanston.
Thank you for this thoughtful reflection on what actually drives residential real estate values. It’s great to hear a more objective voice instead of all fear-mongering, rhetorical overkill, and an underlying resentment against Northwestern University, that drives so much of the narrative we read from the Evanston NIMBY’s. Let’s build this arena and adopt the zoning changes that will enable it to flourish.
“Objective”? Ms. Mabadi is listed as a supporter on the Field of Opportunities website.
The sources cited in this “guest essay” demonstrate how poorly it supports its conclusion. The first link goes to an industry article that links elsewhere for the “3 to 15%” figure: a Trulia “404 error” page. The second source clearly states that between 2006 and 2016, “five new pro football stadiums have opened and none, so far, has had a noticeable impact in raising home values in its immediate vicinity (a two mile radius).”
Most important, however, is the failure to recognize that having a stadium in this neighborhood is the status quo. The change sought by NU is to expand the entire athletic campus’s use to unlimited 10,000-person commercial events (including “musical performances”) annually as well as ten stadium-capacity (35,000-person) mega-concerts each season. All without increasing on-site parking by a single space, or contributing property taxes to the city or schools.
Different people may want different things, but as someone who bought a home a couple of blocks from the stadium when I was pregnant with my first kid, my family will be forced to move if NU gets what it wants. The noise alone will make this area incompatible with raising small children—fostering healthy sleep habits is challenging enough as it is.
If anyone reading this is wondering whether they’ll be within earshot of the mega-concerts and “smaller” concerts, I’ll share another personal anecdote: we can hear the ETHS marching band on fall evenings. That’s over a mile from where we live, and they don’t use amplification.
I know from personal experience that Sally Mabadi is an excellent realtor with deep knowledge of the Evanston market. I trust her perspective.
This letter suggests that Northwestern’s ill-advised plan would actually be good for Evanston because it will offer people who enjoy athletics ‘more of what they love.’ With all respect to its author – far from it! Those of us who purchased homes since the stadium was built in 1926 – i.e., most of us – understood we would be living near a university athletics complex that would host a modest number of amateur football and basketball events a year. But Northwestern is trying to rush approval of zoning changes for a new stadium that would host 10 open-air arena concerts – almost double the capacity of the Allstate Arena – an unlimited number of professional sports and entertainment events with up to 10,000 attendees annually, and liquor sales. All of this would occur in a densely populated residential neighborhood with homes, six elementary and middle schools, churches and small businesses, and accessed by narrow streets. The letter also cites a survey that says homes near pro football stadiums have higher property values than non-stadium neighborhoods. But how many professional football stadiums are located in congested residential neighborhoods with no highway access and very limited parking? Even Soldier Field – the smallest NFL stadium – has acres of parking at the stadium and nearby plus easy access to DuSable Lake Shore Drive and expressways. None of that is the case at Ryan Field.
With an increase in value comes an increase in taxes. Tax increases selectively eliminate certain groups of buyers and the characteristics of the community, as well as its charm are diminished. Regrettable. Unforgivable. Some significant consideration should be given to an event Center/stadium on campus as an alternative. Then NU will have to address all the current and future issues that are being discussed. Just a thought. Even eliminates the zoning variants sought.
I enjoy going to concerts in Chicago because I can get reasonably priced tickets at small venues & because I get to go home to a quiet suburb where I know I can park my car. I enjoy going to NU football games because they are daytime events and the ticket prices are not $200-300 dollars. It’s absurd to suggest that young people wil move to a wealthy suburb because there’s a loud concert hall that takes away parking nearby.
The young professionals who can afford Evanston rent, like me, moved her because it’s quiet and calm. The young professionals who want to live in a loud and active neighborhood will continue to live in the City.
As a young professional, if the re-zoning is approved to turn Ryan Field into a Concert Hall I am moving OUT of Evanston.
Even if the concert traffic and noise is bearable, which is will not be, why would I want to live in a city that lets private corporations change their property zoning whenever they please.
It’s hard for me to believe that families and empty nesters will pay extra for a house with loud amplified music as many days as Northwestern can book events in the summer. In case you are not aware, NU is requesting 10 mega concerts and unlimited outdoor concerts and events of up to 10,000.
Concert decibels in outdoor venues range between 90 to 100 dB. Without a solid mass stadium and dome loud music cannot be contained. Sounds over 85 decibels have the potential to cause hearing loss. It will certainly impact the immediate neighborhood, but depending on the wind may impact neighborhoods for miles around, especially the boom, boom, booming of low frequencies.
Access to good health care is also important and may be seriously comprised. With the minimal parking Northwestern is proposing at the stadium, streets will be congested for miles.
As well, it is often the case that cell phones do not work near a stadium (for instance Ohio state game last Fall). If emergencies should arise, residents may need a landline or an alternative way to contact 911.
For months we have been working with an architect on improvements to our property. In our last meeting we explained the need to postpone due to the rezoning request – Our architect’s parting words — “Wow, is Central street gonna be a mess”.
Most of the data showing large stadiums driving up values come from developments in blighted areas. Evanston is not a blighted area. Meanwhile, given NU’s refusal to pay a fair share of taxes, people of low- and fixed-incomes who find it impossible to keep pace with ballooning tax bills, are being driven from their homes. People who were blue collar and working class move away after retiring, and many can’t afford to live here to begin with. NU wants to build the stadium as a pleasure palace for its wealthiest donors and alumni; the hoi polloi who can afford the tickets will provide clapping hands for the spectacle. Go Cats! Do you need such a lavish new litter box?