Nonprofit Sues City Hall Over Northwestern's $800M Stadium Plan

Nonprofit Sues City Hall Over Northwestern's $800M Stadium PlanSource: Google Street View
Richard M. Sullivan
Published on December 02, 2023

In a bold swing at city hall, the Most Livable City Association, an Evanston-based nonprofit, has taken legal jabs at Evanston officials for allegedly cozying up too close to Northwestern University. Launching a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court on Thursday, the MCLA claims the city officials have overstepped their boundaries in what they describe as a "backroom deal" to poorly rezone Ryan Field, paving the way for an $800 million stadium reconstruction that would include a full-blown concert schedule to boot, as reported by the Chicago Tribune.

The legal tiff erupted after a narrow 5-4 Evanston City Council vote that saw Mayor Daniel Biss cast the tiebreaker for amendments liberally allowing up to six concerts a year at the new venue. The nonprofit's suit accuses the mayor and some council members of having to deliberately ignore laws and evidence in exchange for funds from Northwestern's deep pockets. Adverse effects such as traffic chaos, litter issues, and a potential decline in property value are among the residents' concerns. "Our elected officials failed to follow the law, and that's why we're bringing this suit," declared David DeCarlo, president of the MCLA, in a released statement, indicating a play for justice and impartiality, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Brushing aside the accusations, Biss defended his vote in a Tribune commentary, suggesting the project's economic boost to Evanston as a counterweight to the residents' grievance. "No town of our size sees many $800 million investments like this," Biss penned, with an air of assurance about the stadium's potential benefits ranging from revenue hikes to career opportunities for locals, particularly minority and women-owned businesses.

Not merely content to battle through the courts, the MCLA has also launched a campaign cheekily dubbed "Better than Biss," intending to directly challenge the mayor in the 2025 elections. According to their campaign website, they're on the hunt to identify and potentially back a mayoral candidate with the right stuff, per the Chicago Tribune. Evanston officials, meanwhile, are playing their cards close to the vest for now. A city spokesperson relayed to WGN News that "they have yet to be served and have no comment at this time" regarding the emerging legal scuffle.

On the front lines of the neighborhood's defense, about a dozen residents, alongside the MCLA, have valiantly stood up to join the suit, adding a personal face to the collective frustration over what they feel to be Evanston systematically rubber-stamping Northwestern's proposals. Whether this David vs. Goliath tale will lead to a change of mind or simply reaffirm Northwestern's influence over its city will certainly be a story for the ages, as all eyes now shift to the court's interpretation of the city's contentious nod to modernity.