NORTH PARK — After a frequently contentious fight, Northeastern Illinois University has succeeded in its two-year-long bid to acquire properties on Bryn Mawr in order to build student housing, an effort that required NEIU to invoke eminent domain.
"Northeastern Illinois University has acquired the entire 3400 block of [West] Bryn Mawr Avenue now that final judgments have been entered in the legal proceedings that began in August 2014," the university announced Wednesday.
"The university will comply with its statutory obligation to provide relocation assistance. [This does not include tenant relocation]," according to a statement provided to DNAinfo by NEIU spokesman Mike Hines.
Garrick Beil, whose parents built and owned the property at 5600 N. Kimball Ave. (at the intersection of Bryn Mawr) in the 1970s, was among the most vocal holdouts against NEIU.
"They will never get over this gross injustice," Beil said of his parents, now both in their 80s.
"The court proceedings gave clear indication that prevailing over NEIU was hopeless. The eminent domain laws in Illinois are stacked heavily in favor of the state over the rights of property owners," Beil said in response to the settlement.
"We had support from much of the surrounding community, which we are grateful for, but that was not sufficient to overcome NEIU and their big bank-backed real estate developer American Campus Communities Inc.," he said.
"All Illinois property owners should be fearful of the growing desperation of our state government agencies for 'creative ways to become economically self sufficient,'" Beil continued. "Who would have thought that meant generating new revenue by eminent domain? Is that really the public use our founding fathers envisioned in the Constitution?"
Neither Beil nor the university commented on the terms of the settlement.
The issue dates back to early 2014, when NEIU unveiled its "Decade of Dreams" strategic plan — a wish list that included a half-dozen facilities projects, among them student housing. NEIU is the only public Illinois university completely devoid of residences for its students.
The university identified a stretch of Bryn Mawr — between Kimball and Bernard avenue — as the most suitable area for a continuous block of mixed-use construction. NEIU needed to purchase eight buildings on Bryn Mawr — most of them commercial but some of them containing apartments — in order to make room for a $50 million, 280,000-square-foot residential/retail project.
A handful of property owners sold immediately, while others dug in their heels, including Beil and the Tong family, owners of 3411 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., which is occupied by the Hunan Wok restaurant.
In August 2014, NEIU initiated eminent domain proceedings after failing to reach a deal with the property owners.
In the interim, the university began construction of dormitories within its campus boundaries, something it had originally planned as Phase Two of a housing strategy, with Bryn Mawr as Phase One.
"Our goal had always been to provide housing starting fall 2016," Mike Dizon, NEIU spokesman told DNAinfo at the time. "With eminent domain proceedings taking as long as they do, it won't be possible to open the Bryn Mawr residence hall by then."
The university has not yet established a timeline for construction on Bryn Mawr, but according to Hines it won't start until after the on-campus residence hall is completed in fall 2016.
The businesses on the 3400 block of West Bryn Mawr have the option to continue business operations for at least a year, he noted.
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