NU Stadium Rezoning Status (6/3/23)

While the public campaign focuses on “rebuild Ryan Field,” local public interest has centered on the re-zoning that is a quieter but larger change. At request of members and residents, CSNA will attempt to post periodic status reports on this process.

The Northwestern football stadium, baseball field, and other athletic facilities between Central Street and Isabella are in a unique zoning district assigned a “U2” designation. A U2 University Athletic Facilities District, according to the City of Evanston and its zoning ordinance, is designed “to permit the use of university facilities within the district in a manner that is compatible with the surrounding development, which is predominantly residential.” See also Evanston Code Ord. §6-15-7-1. Click either of the first two links in this paragraph for a PDF table of the University "U" zoning districts. Note that some of the University plans would also necessarily impact the "T" or transitional buffer district between the U2 district and residential districts.

The size of the proposed stadium demolition and rebuild project is such that it would require, under Evanston Code, to be considered as a “planned development.” The concept of the “planned development” originated as a way to control new subdivisions, but has been used in Evanston, not without controversy, to allow large developments with features that would otherwise not be allowed under current zoning and building codes. See generally the City's page on this process and some of the current or recent proposals. Under current ordinance, the City may not grant site development allowances, even for planned developments, that increase building height, density, or floor area ratio in the Central Street overlay district; however, Ryan Field is not in the district.

NU’s application for a planned development for the stadium may be found and downloaded here.

Because the planned use is so different from current use, it would also require a “text amendment” to the current zoning ordinance. NU submitted a request for a text amendment in January, most of which referred to an attachment for substance, and which has been updated. The second supplement, as of this writing the most recent, is downloadable by clicking here.

Schedule:  The next upcoming June meeting of the Land Use Commission, at which many expected the proposed text amendment to be first considered, has been cancelled. The City’s published schedule for consideration of stadium district zoning matters, none of which is firm, is as follows as of the date of this story:
    •    Land Use Commission: August 9, 2023 (tentative, not yet scheduled)
    •    Planning & Development Committee/City Council (Introduction): September 11, 2023 (tentative, not yet scheduled)
    •    City Council (Action):  September 25, 2023 (tentative, not yet scheduled)