An Eminent Decade

Emmanuel Gonzalez , Managing Editor

Local residents who aren’t for NEIU’s expansion into the neighborhood let their lawns do the talking.
Local residents who aren’t for NEIU’s expansion into the neighborhood let their lawns do the talking.


Within recent months, events have transpired between what has been called a “Land Grab” by NEIU Neighbors Coalition and the eminent domain process underway to claim properties along the 3400 block of W Bryn Mawr Ave.

As part of NEIU’s Decade of Dreams plan to improve the overall life at the university, NEIU has sought to acquire six different properties amongst the Bryn Mawr block to be able to provide student housing.

The need for these properties was communicated about two years ago, when informal conversations began. Only one of the seven property owners, Pete’s Auto Clinic, had agreed to sell and this agreement was finalized about a year and a half ago.

However, the other six property owners have voiced their decision not to sell their property to NEIU. Several have begun to place signs in the windows of the storefronts reading “Listen! NO NEIU eminent domain”.

Eminent domain is the legal process in which the government or agent of the government may take private property to be converted into public use under the condition they provide compensation to property owners.

Supporters of the property owners, the NEIU Neighbors Coalition, have also begun a website that elaborately speaks around their objections for NEIU’s decision to exercise eminent domain. On their website,, exists a link to sign a petition against eminent domain.

A resident in North Park, Gina Fong, and member of the NEIU Neighbors Coalition expressed that eminent domain in this instance is “[a] misuse of the law. Student housing, in our opinion, is not public use, when we think of public use, we think of a railway or the CTA…”

39th Ward Alderman Laurino has been quoted in saying, “It is NEIU’s right to exercise eminent domain.” Which is the most she has chosen to speak on the subject.

According to Fong, many resident have tried reaching out to Laurino but have not had successful attempts. Residents attended a brief meeting in April with Laurino, which concluded she would not give a position on whether or not she supports NEIU’s decision.

The Independent has reached out to Rep. Laurino email, and at the time of this writing have received no response. Her presence in other media outlets appears to be absent.

Both sides, neighbors and NEIU, have stated different reasons for NEIU’s need to build on Bryn Mawr.

As stated on the Coalition’s website, “The land grab scheme is a desperate attempt to cover up the revenue shortfalls created by declining enrollments and years of apparent mismanagement at NEIU by the Hahs administration.”

Hahs has said, “We want to serve beyond our immediate geography. We are a global university…” NEIU currently has partnerships with Asia, Europe, and South America, serving international students who must find housing on their own. She also expressed that she wants NEIU to be able to provide a housing experience in its own geography.

Despite criticism from neighbors suggesting that NEIU should build on their own land first to assess their need for the Bryn Mawr blocks, NEIU has already made plans to build on campus grounds. Those plans include another residence hall for student housing, another parking garage, an education building, a science building, and an expansion to the performing arts building amongst more.

Between all the different plans NEIU has for their own space, Hahs would still like to maintain “a balance of buildings, and green space, and parking, and roads, and all the things we need to keep in our acres.”

“We are pursuing both at the same time, the exact ‘what is first’ has not been determined,” explained Hahs in reference to whether construction on Bryn Mawr will begin before or after construction on NEIU’s own space.

In fact, any type of specific detail about the housing project itself is intangible at the moment, as NEIU has barely begun developing plans with their investor and partner for this project, American Campus Community (ACC).

ACC was chosen by NEIU through a detailed process which required NEIU to submit a request for proposal which then receives submissions from different investors and the submissions of interest then give a presentation to a committee at NEIU in charge of making sure those companies are meeting the guidelines of what’s expected. This agreement is finally sent to and reviewed by the Illinois Procurement board, which gives the authority to go ahead with plans, and it is then made public.

As part of NEIU’s partnership with ACC, NEIU will not be required to make an initial investment on the housing project and will only pay for the property required to build.

The exact dollar amount for the property could not be obtained on request from [either] side, one for legal purposes, and another for a matter of confidentiality. Though what is known about the amount offered [to buy the property] is that an official appraiser generated the offer.

As part of the eminent domain process, a fair market value must be given to property owners in order to proceed. However, property owners argue that the pricing has not been fair and debate on the price is being taken to legal court.

Fair or not, Dolly Tong, long-time property owner and NEIU graduate has stated that the offer cannot account for lost revenue as she leases the property to generate enough income to be able to take care of her mother. Her struggle is that her mother is severely disabled and requires 24/7 care which means hiring caregivers while those in her residence work.

“[We’re] being forced into doing something we are not ready to do,” says Tong.

After being made an offer through formal letter, a subsequent offer was made to property owners from NEIU stating that they would receive a minimum one-year stay after the sale of their property with possibility of extended stay.

NEIU has made efforts to stay in contact with different community through a private group on Facebook, which includes community organizations who met with NEIU in late June to speak about the “public good” and the economic health of the neighborhood. In one community hearing, they dispelled recent speculation that NEIU will attempt to acquire residencies.

Hahs has stated that she cares about what happens to the six property owners. “I do [care] about these property owners and we (NEIU) do, too. We’ve been very respectful about that.” She also added, “Public good often disrupts a small number of people’s plans and that’s why we have this tool called eminent domain, because otherwise progress might not be made. Most of the businesses came after the university and the idea that the university will never change is not thinking about reality.”

Tong remarks, “I just don’t want it to appear that we’re some autonomous property owners, that we have a history in this neighborhood for many years longer than Northeastern has. Taking that property away will hurt our families.”

As of now, the only thing certain is that Bryn Mawr property owners refuse to be removed and both neighbors and NEIU will exhaust all options to achieve their goal.