Evanston City Committee discusses collaboration with university
    Community member, Thawivann Spalding, talks about the street lights on Orrington Avenue and Sheridan Road.
    Wei Wei / North by Northwestern

    Having joined Northwestern on Sept. 9 as Eugene Sunshine’s successor, Executive Vice President Nim Chinniah shared his goals for university collaboration with the city of Evanston at the Northwestern University and City Committee joint meeting on Wednesday night.  

    “There are multiple constituents in a university. There are processes we have to go through,” Chinniah said to the Committee. “It’s a large and complex area, but I’m open to holding an open dialogue. It is better to collaborate. I am committed to open engagement and dialogue.”

    Spending the last seven years as the chief financial officer at the University of Chicago, Chinniah said that he understands that collaboration is part of the job.

    “It is what we do for a living,” Chinniah said. “But it has to be a two-way conversation, because I’m not going to be able to meet all of your needs, and you’re not going to be able to meet all of mine. We will be honest and open and share conversation.”

    Community Representative Dave Schoenfeld explained that the City Committee aims to understand the university’s plans regarding the surrounding neighborhood so that it can provide input and assist neighbors in expressing their concerns.

    “Sometimes we get frustrated because the university doesn’t always want to share its plans, but we always want to know what they’re planning,” Schoenfeld said. “We want to understand the needs and accommodate them. This is dialogue, not confrontation.”

    Evanston resident Thawivann Spalding said that the bright Emergency Police “Blue Light” telephone light on the corner of Lincoln Street and Orrington Avenue disrupts the ambience of her home, making the scene outside of her window look more like a parking lot rather than a residential community.

    “I realize that Northwestern needs to take care of the students, but can we compromise?” Spalding asked.

    In addition to the blue light, there are about six bright white streetlights in the area. Chairman Alderman Judy Fiske of the first ward said she does not quite understand the purpose of the extra lights.

    “We’re trying to preserve the residential feel of the community,” Fiske said. “I’m not sure who the lights are serving because I don’t see students anywhere near there at night. That money could be put elsewhere.”

    Elsewhere, Ronald Nayler, Northwestern University’s associate vice president for facilities management, said that the university has decided to fund the reconstruction of two alleys, one just east of Orrington Avenue and the other just west of the Technological Institute parking lot.

    Funds are also available for the construction of bike lanes, though.

    Fiske said that those will not be implemented until 2016 or 2017. Fiske said that the Northwestern Associated Student Government has voiced that it would prefer to have two bike lanes running on the east side of Sheridan Road, rather than one on either side of it.

    “A concern that the neighbors have is that we have a historic district that runs down Sheridan Road,” Fiske said. “Losing that parkway [to bike lanes] will vastly change the character of Sheridan, and everything that happens on Sheridan Road affects west of there.”


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