Evanston aldermen voted 5-3 Monday to accept a community group’s offer of funding to demolish the Harley Clarke mansion.

The vote also authorized the city manager to start what’s likely to be a lengthy review process before demolition of the local landmark could begin.

Leaders of the Evanston Lighthouse Dunes group agreed to increase their funding for the demolition project from $400,000 to $500,000 during the meeting.

But they balked at an open-ended pledge to also cover any cost overruns which was inserted in the agreement at the request of Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward.

It was unclear as the marathon Council meeting ended at 1:30 a.m. Tuesday whether that amendment might cause the deal to fall apart.

Lori Keenan and Linda Damashek with a map they said shows supporters of preserving the mansion.

During public comment at the meeting opponents of demolition greatly outnumbered speakers favoring the demolition plan.

But fundraising efforts for alternative uses have so far fallen far short of the amounts needed to restore the mansion.

With the impending vote on demolition, supporters of the Evanston Lakehouse and Gardens group claimed to have doubled their backing from roughly $100,000 in pledges a few months back to $200,000 on the eve of the vote.

But aldermen in April rejected the Lakehouse group’s plan to turn the mansion into an ecology education center amid doubts they could ever raise the estimated $5 million needed to restore the property.

The mansion issue now goes to the Preservation Commission where the city will be seeking a certificate of appropriateness for the demolition plans.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, voted for the demolition option, saying the city had purchased the mansion in 1965 with the intent of turning the site into parkland — as it had done with two adjoining properties that are now open space.

Eleanor Revelle.

Alderman Eleanor Revelle, whose 7th Ward includes the mansion site, said she opposed demolition. She also claimed the offered demolition funds were woefully inadequate.

Noting that preservation advocates have been circulating petitions calling for an advisory referendum on the mansion issue on November’s ballot, Revelle said the city should at least wait for the outcome of the referendum to decide what to do.

But given the long process required to win administrative approval of the demolition, it’s likely that it will be well past November in any case before the first wrecking ball could hit the mansion facade.

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Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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1 Comment

  1. I support this decision.  If

    I support this decision.  If we want a building to house indoor activities, there is less expensive space almost anywhere else in Evanston. The unique value of the lakeshore is as outdoor space, and this expands the open space available to us all. 

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