What comes next?
A timeline history of NEIU and its properties on Bryn Mawr
Northeastern Illinois University has decided to lease its property between Kimball and Bernard. As the University solicits development proposals in the near future, the Hollywood-North Park Community Association insists that community voice be a part of this process. Read the chronology below to learn more.
As part of its long-term strategic plan (“Decade of Dreams”), Northeastern Illinois University announces its intent to purchase additional property along Bryn Mawr. The plan includes mixed-use student housing on Bryn Mawr in addition to other campus improvements. (See the original 2014 map here.)
NEIU declares its intention to use the power of eminent domain to acquire private property on Bryn Mawr Avenue in order to build student dormitories.
The University begins convening the Northeastern Neighborhood Network to facilitate communication with neighbors. The group meets through November 2017.
NEIU decides to build student housing on its existing campus first while still pursuing the Bryn Mawr properties.
NEIU wins court approval to finalize its acquisition of the entire 3400 block of West Bryn Mawr via the State’s power of eminent domain.
Dr. Gloria Gibson becomes president of NEIU.
HNPCA has made community input at NEIU a top priority
In 2017, the Hollywood-North Park Community Association renewed itself with a new mission, new bylaws, and new Board.
HNPCA Chair Andrew Johnson meets with NEIU President Gibson and her Chief of Staff Mike Dizon. He emphasizes to them how important the fate of the Bryn Mawr properties is to the neighborhood and urges them to include the community in shaping their future development.
Mike Dizon from NEIU, Erika Wozniak from Alderman Nugent’s office, and HNPCA Chair Andrew Johnson meet to plan for the possibility of a community meeting in April at which specific proposals for the Bryn Mawr properties could be made public and discussed openly. Both the HNPCA and Alderman Nugent are willing to proceed; NEIU agrees to provide space for the meeting but declines to participate. Ultimately, the meeting is canceled in light of COVID-19.
HNPCA Chair Andrew Johnson makes a public comment to the NEIU Board of Trustees Finance, Buildings and Grounds Committee. He encourages the Board to pursue the positive redevelopment of the Bryn Mawr properties and requests that the community association be included in the process.
In an e-mail to the University community, NEIU President Dr. Gloria Gibson writes the following in a section titled, “Future of Bryn Mawr and Avondale Properties”:
Due to the decline in enrollments and the changing landscape of residential housing at Northeastern and across higher education due to COVID-19, Northeastern has decided to explore its options for the future of the properties along the 3400 block of West Bryn Mawr Avenue. Northeastern has issued a request for proposals (RFP) for those properties, with no decision likely until early 2021. The RFP also includes the property near El Centro that was acquired in 2014. Proposals are asked to provide development options that Northeastern should consider, including but not limited to: mixed-use housing, environmental and sustainable land use, and retail/commercial space. Proposals are due Sept. 22, at which point Northeastern will assess its options. I will keep the University and neighboring communities updated during this process.
The HNPCA Board of Directors writes to President Gibson and, separately, the Board of Trustees, to request meaningful community participation in the process to select a real estate services firm and to evaluate the best use of the Bryn Mawr properties. We specifically cite the history of these properties as a reason that the University must do right by the community this time around:
The fate of these properties carries special significance for our neighborhood. As you know, in January 2016 the University finalized its acquisition of them via the blunt instrument of eminent domain in order to build student housing. In 2014, former NEIU President Sharon Hahs explained the University’s choice of an off-campus location as being partly about “what is the most help to the community sooner.” Even as the University understandably pursued its own institutional needs, it established a goal of improving the neighborhood as well.
Almost five years later, these properties stand mostly vacant. The University did not achieve its aim, and the neighborhood has suffered the loss of local businesses and its trust in the good faith of the University.
Alderman Samantha Nugent writes to President Gibson to support the inclusion of the HNPCA in this process.
President Gibson declines the HNPCA’s request to help select a real estate services provider but commits to “public input at certain points.”
The HNPCA requests a meeting with President Gibson to discuss what community input might look like.
HNPCA member Mary Lou Jelachich delivers a public comment to the NEIU Board of Trustees Executive Committee. She concludes by stating, “We want to work closely with the selected vendor so that there is a symbiotic relationship between the University and the North Park Community. We believe what benefits the University should also benefit the neighborhood!”
President Gibson promises to reach out to arrange “a tentative meeting” in December.
NEIU announces selection of real estate services advisory firm, Jones Lang LaSalle. President Gibson writes in an e-mail to the University community that, once the Board approves the contract, “we will have a firmer understanding of the next steps and the timeline. At that point, we will seek input from the University community and our neighbors.”
HNPCA member Mary Lou Jelachich delivers a public comment to the NEIU Board of Trustees Finance, Buildings and Grounds Committee. She delivers similar comments to the entire Board of Trustees a week and a half later.
January 21, 2021
The HNPCA and the North River Commission host "Redevelopment of NEIU's Bryn Mawr Properties" to present the results of a community survey and to provide NEIU with an opportunity to discuss their intentions. The following materials from the meeting are available:
Northeastern Illinois University commits to a community engagement process that includes multiple stakeholders. Echoing HNPCA's requests dating back to August of 2020, the University
launches a web page with information about its real estate study
directs Jones Lang LaSalle to incorporate community engagement as part of its report
commits to a bi-weekly "roundtable" conversation to include various community constituents, including a representative from HNPCA
announces it will host its own public meeting on February 22.
Northeastern Illinois University receives a preliminary report from Jones Lang LaSalle and releases a summary. The minutes from the March 22 meeting of the Committee on Finance, Buildings, and Grounds characterize the report's findings as follows:
"The Bryn Mawr research yielded a recommendation for a mixed-use, multi-family development with ground floor retail utilizing a ground lease with additional income participation. A ground lease structure will allow Northeastern to maintain ownership of the land and provide for an element of control over programming. Property size and proximity to public transportation and area institutions, a mix of residential and retail make this an ideal location. Drawbacks are current zoning of the sites would limit the number of residences without a variance, and the current local liquor license restrictions make certain retail establishments not possible."
NEIU conducts their second community meeting on March 29; video is available here.
Jones Lang LaSalle submits its final report, a summary of which is made publicly available. The minutes of an April 14 special meeting of the Committee on Finance, Buildings, and Grounds revealed discussion of affordable senior housing as one component of the project:
"Brian Carroll, Executive Vice President at Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) presented a report focused on the questions about retail and affordable senior housing on Bryn Mawr Avenue that arose from his last presentation in March. The lowest viable rate of return for developers of the retail space has been calculated at 14.5%. JLL recommends a minimum rental rate of $28 per square foot as the lowest possible rate to ensure an initial rate of return at 14.5% or better. As for the questions about affordable senior housing, Mr. Carroll recommended the university find a developer with this particular expertise to help quantify this project viability."
HNPCA Chair Andrew Johnson makes this statement to the full Board of Trustees at their meeting on April 15.
The Northeastern Illinois University Board of Trustees approves a motion to lease --- not sell --- its Bryn Mawr properties.