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Committee Proposes Framework To Guide Campus Planning

Approved framework plan (PDF)

A University-wide committee of faculty, students and staff, in conjunction with an internationally renowned planning and design firm, has created a proposed plan to guide the development of Northwestern University's Evanston campus.

Working with the firm of Sasaki Associates, the Evanston Campus Planning Advisory Committee spent more than a year developing a "framework" plan, which lays out possibilities for how the campus could be developed over the next 50 years.

"This is still very much a draft plan and includes several alternative approaches on how Northwestern can best use the space on the existing Evanston campus," said James Webster, professor of communication studies and a member of the advisory committee (see sidebar 1). "It is designed to be a flexible guide that can adapt to the dynamic needs of the University in the future."

When the plan is finalized by the advisory committee, it will be presented to the University administration for its consideration and evaluation. The proposed plan does not address specific timing issues or the financial viability of the recommended changes.

The Northwestern community will have the opportunity to comment on the draft plan next week, during meetings with Ricardo Dumont, principal of Sasaki Associates. Dumont, one of the lead designers of the framework plan, will join members of the advisory committee at three presentations in McCormick Auditorium in the Norris University Center, at 7 p.m. Sept. 30 and at noon and 5:30 p.m. Oct. 1.

A meeting for the Evanston community will be held at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 16 in the Evanston Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Ave, Room 2200.

"We look forward to receiving input on the plan from members of the University community and our Evanston neighbors," Webster said.

It is the result of 18 months of consultations between members of the advisory committee, members of the University community and Sasaki Associates, an acknowledged leader in planning and design for college and university campuses.

An extensive series of workshops, focus groups and interviews with various campus constituencies yielded a set of planning principles (see sidebar 2) the committee used to balance future building sites and open spaces. The planners were equally attentive to the history of the Evanston campus, its unique setting along Lake Michigan, the historic character of the adjoining Evanston community and Northwestern's commitment to sustainability.

"The plan that emerged from this deliberative process looks at enhancing the existing landscape as much as planning for new buildings," advised Sasaki's Dumont. "A framework plan can serve many purposes," he continued. "It can tell you not only where to build but, just as importantly, where not to. In a university setting, where expansion (see sidebar 3) occurs over many years, it's essential to have this type of framework. We're not suggesting all of this should be built. We are saying, consider future growth as an opportunity to strengthen what you already have."

This study focused on the main campus in Evanston and did not include the athletics complex surrounding Ryan Field or the Chicago campus.

To meet the demand for new and improved facilities while maintaining adequate open space on campus, this new vision of Northwestern's 21st-century campus proposes the following improvements:
  • Restore and strengthen the historic crescent bordering Harris Hall, University Hall and Deering Meadow
  • Create a new crescent, along a new cooling pond edge, to serve as the organizing spine for future buildings, services and utilities
  • Relocate non-academic uses from the core of campus to maximize building capacity east of Sheridan Road
  • Relocate parking to campus gateways to improve pedestrian and bicycle circulation within the core campus
  • Preserve open space along the existing lakefront peninsula
  • Provide new land near the existing science and engineering complex by filling up to four acres of the cooling pond
  • Bridge the divide between north and south campus precincts by providing social and collaborative spaces at the center of campus
  • Create new campus gateways and strengthen Northwestern's identity along Sheridan Road
  • Create a new campus edge along Clark Street that engages downtown Evanston.
The framework plan is based on a concept of four zones of landscape stratification from west to east: the city; the historic oak grove; campus quadrangles; and the lakefront. Supporting and connecting these four landscape zones are a series of circulation networks to serve pedestrians and improve access for bicycles, including bike paths and additional bike racks.

East-west spines would connect the city to the lakefront. These corridors with views to the lake would provide pedestrians with access routes and informal pathways. At Noyes Street, the east-west corridor would become the formal Science and Engineering Green, a new gateway consisting of a 120-foot-wide esplanade of pedestrian-friendly green space, lined with oaks and other shade trees and flanked to the north and south by a controlled access road.

The existing oak grove just north of the Arch provides the most historically distinctive architectural and landscape identity for the campus. From the grove emerges the crescent that was the earliest planning axis of the 19th-century campus. This crescent is a natural organizer for pedestrian movement, winding from Harris Hall, past University Hall and Deering Meadow and ending at the Jacobs Center.

The proposed new crescent, bowing westward from the north and south beaches toward the center of campus, mirrors the historic crescent that organized the earliest campus buildings. A series of quadrangles would be arrayed along the new crescent, providing a unifying element of connectivity among the campus quads. This sequence of open spaces facing Lake Michigan would serve as another north-south pedestrian way that would stretch from the Henry Crown Sports Pavilion and Norris Aquatic Center in the north to the proposed Music Quad in the south.

Sheridan Road, a major pedestrian corridor, would benefit from aesthetic developments, and the existing north-south path just east of Technological Institute should also be improved.

The plan proposes concentration of academic and research uses east of Sheridan Road, to maximize development potential in the U3 zoning district, the least restrictive of the ten zoning districts governing use of University properties. Concentrating the social sciences in the center of campus could provide the seam between the northern Science and Engineering District and the southern Arts and Humanities District. The Medill School of Journalism, the School of Communication and the Bienen School of Music could expand in the southeast district.

Long-term expansion areas for science and engineering growth are anticipated along the new crescent just east of the current concentration of facilities. Parcels to the west of Sheridan Road could accommodate administrative uses. Another gateway site at the intersection of Sheridan Road and Hinman Avenue, now occupied by the Fairchild residence halls, could provide significant capacity for academic buildings.

The plan also identifies possible areas that could accommodate new residential facilities. Student residences, both graduate and undergraduate, could be clustered close to both the north and south academic areas. Undergraduate residence halls could be developed in the existing north district housing area east of Sheridan Road. In the south, undergraduate residence halls could be developed in the southeastern portion of campus, adjacent to the existing 1835 Hinman and Jones Fine and Performing Arts residence halls. Graduate residential expansion could be accommodated in the southwestern portion of campus, near downtown Evanston. A new recreation center could be located between the undergraduate and graduate student residential areas near the intersection of Chicago Avenue and Clark Street.

Strategic Moves Three moves are considered strategic and should be carried out first in order to achieve the remaining initiatives. The removal of Sargent Hall residence and the Frances Searle building would make possible the development of the Science and Engineering Green. The replacement of the dining facility in Sargent Hall would permit the first phase of development of this new open space. Later replacement of Frances Searle's facilities would allow for the eastward extension of the Science and Engineering Green. Relocating Lunt Hall to a site adjacent to University Hall would create a development parcel for a future quadrangle north of the Jacobs Center.

Site Capacity The relocation of the Allen Center from the center of campus to a new facility and the change in the cooling pond's configuration are pivotal in achieving maximum program capacity. Should the University elect not to undertake these initiatives, the build-out capacity of the framework plan would be reduced, and a fundamental organizing concept for campus development -- the creation of the new crescent -- would be lost.

Vehicular Conditions and Parking Network The proposed circulation network would limit public vehicle access in the pedestrian core of campus, with parking and drop-off points at the periphery. Three parking structures are proposed: a northern parking structure adjacent to the western edge of the Sports Pavilion-Aquatic Center, with parking for between 1,200 and 1,600 cars; an underground parking facility below the proposed quadrangle north of the Jacobs Center, with parking for as many as 800 cars at the center of campus; and a southern structure in a portion of the site occupied by the two-level parking deck, with parking for up to 1,100 cars. A new above-ground garage could be built in the existing surface lot north of Engelhart Hall, with a 600-car capacity.

The Campus Framework Plan is organized around three major districts -- North (science and engineering), Central (social sciences) and South (arts and humanities) -- whose functional and collegial relationships are critical in unifying the whole of the Evanston campus and institutional activities.

Science and Technology Expansion

Comprising all lands north of the Garrett entry, the north district is characterized as an academic and residential zone, with important athletic facilities. The new campus entry created at the Science and Engineering Green would provide an open space amenity for this district, organize the northern land use pattern with new buildings fronting the Green, and help frame the views to Lake Michigan. The proposed new crescent is another north-south pedestrian way through the district, with buildings along it organizing the associated courtyards. The building sites proposed for this district could accommodate up to 1.5 million square feet of new space, necessary to support Northwestern's future as a research university.

Residential The residential program in this district would be enhanced with new undergraduate residences planned adjacent to current fraternity houses and existing residence halls, such as Slivka and Kemper. A key part of the north district strategy is the relocation of housing from Sargent Hall, Bobb-McCulloch Hall and Lincoln Street fraternity houses into new residential facilities.

Recreation/Athletic The recreation and athletic program would be enhanced in the north district through three key initiatives: three athletic fields would be designed for the lakefront peninsula area; an expansion to the Sports Pavilion-Aquatic Center would provide needed fitness space and studios for recreation use and also locker and team rooms for varsity sports; and the outdoor tennis courts on the west side of Sheridan Road would be moved north of the Sports Pavilion-Aquatic Center, atop the City of Evanston's existing underground reservoir. The Sheridan Road site could then be used for administrative buildings.

Parking A new garage is proposed immediately west of the Sports Pavilion-Aquatic Center, to serve as the main parking locus for the north district, and replace several existing surface lots. The garage is anticipated to hold between 1,200 and 1,600 cars.

Existing Role and Geography

The central district is the geographic and functional junction of the campus, including the area north of University Library and south of Garrett. This district could be developed for the social sciences and campus center uses. The district open space plan preserves and augments the historic crescent that begins in the south district and arcs northward toward Sheridan Road.

Proposed Development
Social Sciences
Quad The relocation of Lunt Hall farther south along the historic crescent would permit consolidation of academic departments in a new Social Sciences Quad, proposed for the area north of the Jacobs Center and framed by new buildings intended primarily for classrooms, administrative services and faculty offices.

Central Crescent/Pond Portals An existing view corridor facing the lake would be enhanced by construction of a pier that extends over the pond. Linked to the new crescent, the pier could provide an interactive space at the water's edge.

Campus Commons A natural crossroads between academic and residential areas on the north and south campuses, the central district, with prudent planning, could become a physical and intellectual hub of campus. A primary feature of this district is a proposed campus commons -- what the planners describe as a great "civic square" -- an open space defined by the library complex, Jacobs Center and new buildings to the north and east. A new glass façade could be added to Norris Center's west elevation. New social spaces and food service could be accommodated on the east side of Jacobs Center. A bridge connecting the second floor of the Norris Center to the plaza level of University Library would provide a dynamic link between these two student-oriented buildings.

The removal of surface parking lots west of the Allen Center and along the Garrett entry would necessitate a new central district parking strategy. The proposed underground garage north of Jacobs Center would provide up to 800 parking spaces at a campus gateway and help reduce vehicular traffic across the center of campus. Additional need could be accommodated at some of the existing surface lots west of Sheridan Road.

Existing Role and Geography

The south district is bounded by Sheridan Road to the east, Maple Avenue to the west, and Foster Street to the north. The distinguishing character of this district is one of historic buildings that frame intimate courtyards and open spaces. The relocation of Lunt Hall from its current position to the area north of University Hall would strengthen the visual organization of the historic crescent, place Lunt alongside its architectural contemporaries, and make way for new open space and buildings that enhance the crescent's northern terminus. The existing oak grove and Deering Meadow would be preserved. Courtyard spaces in the south quadrangle of sororities and residence halls, between Emerson Street and University Place, would remain.

Proposed Development
Clark Street
Corridor A new mixed-use residential district is proposed for the southwestern area of campus along Clark Street. Graduate student residential units would be located on the upper floors of these buildings; ground floor uses could include conventional commercial establishments as well as artist and music studios.

Clark and Chicago Gateway A new multi-purpose recreation facility is proposed for the northwest corner of Chicago Avenue and Clark Street. Serving residents of the south campus, such a facility would help define the Clark Street edge and could accommodate fitness and studio space, basketball courts, physical therapy space, offices and locker-room facilities.

Residence Halls/Sororities New undergraduate residences could be located in the southeast part of campus, east of Chicago Avenue. This area is suitable for undergraduate students because it is in close proximity to the academic core, as well as existing undergraduate residence halls.

University Place would be redesigned at its eastern border; the existing cul-de-sac would be adapted for use as a small plaza. The vehicular turnaround serving the residences and Scott-Cahn should be maintained.

Crescent-Arts Green Terminus The Music Quad, in the southeast campus district, would be comprised of the Arts Green, shaped by the new building for the Bienen School of Music on the east, and the Block Museum of Art and School of Communication facilities on the west.

Oak Grove and Historic Campus The existing oak grove, along with its associated historic buildings, would be preserved as a key space on campus.

West Sheridan Administrative District One of the bolder proposals of the framework plan is the restoration of the residential character of Orrington Avenue between Emerson Street and Foster Street. Over the long term, removing the Foster-Walker residence hall and other facilities would allow the relocation of several existing houses from the east side of the block, along Sheridan Road, to the west side of the block. These relocations would re-establish the residential scale along Orrington Avenue and provide a development site on Sheridan Road for more public administrative functions, such as admissions or student services.

New Parking Structure
A new parking structure proposed for the south district would consolidate parking at the periphery of the campus, serve patrons of the Arts Green and promote a pedestrian-friendly campus.

The Framework Plan is the result of a process that began in October 2005, as an outgrowth of prior planning initiatives undertaken by President Bienen's Advisory Committee on University Space Planning. The planning process was informed by a progression of in-depth working sessions with the University's Evanston Campus Planning Advisory Committee, the members of which represent a broad base of campus interests. The committee reviewed and deliberated, in sequence, on planning analysis, principles and assumptions, conceptual plan options at the campus-wide and district levels, and development of plan details. The process also included interviews and working sessions with stakeholder groups representing academic, administrative and student life interests.

Northwestern community members are invited to review the plan and then share their comments via email at campusplanning@northwestern.edu.



Carole K. Cahill, associate dean, J. L. Kellogg School of Management
Jad Carson, student, Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science
Coleen T. Coleman, associate dean, School of Education and Social Policy
Ed Colgate, professor, Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science
Dauphine Gregory, Northwestern University Staff Advisory Council
Neal Sales-Griffin, student, School of Education and Social Policy
Bradford D. Hurlbut, associate athletic director, Athletics and Recreation
Craig A. Johnson, associate director, Office of Budget Planning
L. Todd Leasia, director, Office for Research Safety
Marv Lofquist, associate dean, Judd A. and Marjorie Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences
Richard M. Lueptow, senior associate dean, McCormick
René E. Machado, associate dean, Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music
G. Garth Miller, executive director, University Housing and Food Service
Neal Sales-Griffin, student, School of Education and Social Policy
Roxanne Sellberg, associate University librarian, University Library
Jean E. Shedd, associate provost, Office of the Provost, ex officio
Patricia H. Todus, associate vice president and deputy chief information officer, Information Technology
Douglas Troutman, associate dean, Medill School of Journalism
James G. Webster, professor, School of Communication
Ken Woo, director, School of Continuing Studies

Advisory Committee Members, 2005-2008

Craig R. Bina, associate dean, Weinberg
Rebecca Griffiths, Northwestern University Staff Advisory Council
Jon Marino, School of Education '06
Mackenzie Nicholson, McCormick '08
Richard Roth, associate dean, Medill
Linda M. Salchenberger, associate dean, School of Continuing Studies
Jay Walsh, vice president for research
Jonathan Webber, Weinberg '08


Based on an examination of the Northwestern campus context, history, planning framework, and land use patterns, the Evanston Campus Planning Advisory Committee recommended a set of eight principles, summarized below, to serve campus planning efforts.
  • Respond to Northwestern's unique lakefront location. To fulfill the original intent of the lakefill project, the University should maximize development opportunities presented by this valuable resource, while respecting its character and the regional tradition of lakeshore open space.
  • Preserve the memorable spaces of campus and enhance them, where appropriate, with infill development.
  • Create new open spaces and landscapes, rooted in the historic structure of the campus, that organize future development.
  • Design in accordance with the University's sustainability guidelines.
  • Develop the core of the campus as a pedestrian environment, and move parking to campus entrances. Provide pedestrian links along north-south, east-west and public transit routes, including those that extend into the adjoining community.
  • Bridge the existing north-south division of uses and activities by identifying facilities or programs that could serve the campus community within a new central district.
  • Acknowledge the historic character of the adjoining Evanston community and endeavor to preserve university structures where significant or practical, while introducing new development that complements and contributes to this character.
  • Assess zoning opportunities that could preserve existing assets, create innovative campus-community partnerships and permit new, iconic focal points on campus.

The Campus Framework Plan identifies future building sites that could accommodate as much as 7,457,000 gross square feet of additional space over the next 50-75 years; the total net gain would be more than 6 million square feet after demolition of some existing structures.

The new buildings would continue decades of gradual but significant growth of the Evanston campus, almost all of which took place without a master plan. In the late 1990s, as a result of The Highest Order of Excellence strategic plan, Northwestern University undertook a robust program of building new academic, residential and recreational facilities. Since then, nearly 750,000 gross square feet of space have been constructed on the Evanston campus.

In the 1980s more than 700,000 gross square feet of new construction was completed. In the post-World War II era, as enrollments increased due to the G.I. Bill, nearly 2 million gross square feet of new buildings were constructed on the Evanston campus between 1950 and 1969, including facilities on the "lakefill" project that added 84 acres to the campus. In the 1930s and 1940s, despite the Great Depression, and driven largely by the completion of the Technological Institute, the University built more than 1 million gross square feet of new facilities.