What Is Northeastern Doing With Vacant Bryn Mawr Buildings?

Gabriel Gurrola, Campus Arts & Life Editor

Northeastern has abandoned all plans to use the vacant buildings located on the block of 3400 West Bryn Mawr Avenue for student housing. Now, NEIU is attempting to find out what the buildings can be used for.

Since 2016, eight properties located on Bryn Mawr Avenue, which Northeastern planned to use for student housing as part of the Decade of Dreams initiative, have remained vacant. While some owners agreed to sell the buildings, other owners had no intentions to sell. In response, NEIU invoked eminent domain, which gives governments the right to seize properties, even without the owner’s consent.

During a 17-month court battle for ownership of the buildings, NEIU announced plans to build student housing on its existing campus in March 2015, which would eventually become The Nest.

The announcement came as a result of public outcry, but NEIU did not back off its pursuit of the buildings. NEIU spokesperson, Mike Dizon stated after the announcement, “The university has always stated its intention to build student housing on both Bryn Mawr and its own property. The latest announcement simply represents a switch in order, with on-campus moving from phase two to phase one.”

In January 2016, Northeastern was awarded court approval to finalize its acquisition of the buildings. Several businesses were forced to permanently shut their doors. To this day, the buildings remain vacant.


But the question remains: What exactly are NEIU’s plans for the buildings?


Chris Childers, Executive Director of Marketing and Communications, told The Independent, “In early 2020, the University contracted with Jones Lang LaSalle, LLC (JLL) to provide comprehensive professional real estate advisory services related to identifying the best use of the real estate located at the intersections of W. Bryn Mawr Ave. and N. Kimball Ave. (“Bryn Mawr Property”) and the intersections of N. Avondale Ave., W. Henderson St., and N. Kimball Ave. (“El Centro Property”).”

NEIU announced that a public, 60-minute presentation by its real estate broker, Coldwell Banker Richard Ellis (CBRE), would be held via Zoom on January 11, 2023 with the intention to “publicly advertise for the redevelopment of a long-term ground lease for the blocks at Bryn Mawr between North Kimball Avenue and North Bernard Street.” A video transcript of the presentation is unavailable.

Andrew Johnson of the Hollywood-North Park Community Association Board told The Independent, “One of our Board members attended that meeting, but it was convened by the University. The person who advertised it was Chris Childers. We asked repeatedly for them to share a recording of the meeting and the materials they reviewed. However, we never received anything and have never seen a link to anything.”

One of the businesses shut down was a favorite among staff at WTTW, Hunan Wok, a Chinese restaurant built in the 1950s.

The owner, Bill Tong, a NEIU alumnus and former adjunct professor of Earth Sciences, firmly refused to sell the restaurant when Northeastern sent him a letter stating they wanted to buy his building and use it for student housing.

Despite Tong’s refusal to sell, Northeastern was not going to take no for an answer. Tong said, “We were told that if we didn’t sell, they would sue us in court and take it by force.”

Then-NEIU President Sharon Hahs said in response to Tong’s refusal to sell, “If your question is whether I believe they have the right not to sell, I don’t believe they have that right… I recognize that you do not wish to give up your property. You will be receiving a fair market value for your property. It is my hope that you take that funding and do something appropriate, but this is progress within the law and we are continuing to do this on behalf of our university, on behalf of our students, and on behalf of our future.”

Hunan Wok was just one of the many businesses that were forced to shut down after NEIU acquired the entire block of 3400 West Bryn Mawr Avenue.

Manish Kumar, Vice President for Finance and Administration, did not respond for comment.

A once spry neighborhood near Northeastern’s main campus is now a deserted one.