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Aldermen asked to sink more into mansion

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Evanston aldermen will get a staff proposal tonight to spend $270,000 to make emergency life-safety repairs to the lakefront Harley Clarke mansion and conduct a more comprehensive study of the building.

The proposal, from City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, tackles some of the issues raised in a report the consulting firm McGuire Igleski & Associates submitted to the city 15 months ago.

That report suggested at least $430,000 in mechanical, electrical and plumbing work was needed to correct code deficiencies involving the existing use of the building by the Evanston Arts Center.

And it concluded that, depending on the planned future use of the building, several times as much money might need to be spent to comply with code requirements for those different uses.

The EAC's basement kiln room in a photo included in last year's report from the city consultants.

The new report this month from city staff recommends that the art center stop using the gas-fired ceramics kilns in the basement. It says the kilns are not in a fire-rated room and are not designed to adequately handle the heat and fumes produced by their operation.

The staff report suggests spending about $170,000 to upgrade the building's electrical distribution and fire alarm system, improve ventilation on the lower level and make some plumbing improvements.

It also calls for spending between $50,000 and $100,000 to complete a more comprehensive site evaluation and future land use study.

The city manager suggests in a memo that under its 1996 lease with the city, the arts center should have made the electrical and ventilation system improvements no later than 2006.

The arts center has been considering relocating to some other site in the city for some time, but so far hasn't announced where that new site would be.

In the memo Bobkiewicz also asks aldermen to more clearly define the uses they're willing to consider for the mansion and its surrounding property and whether those include ones that might require zoning changes from the current "open space" zoning.

Whatever the Human Services Committee decides tonight will need to go to the full City Council, probably later this month, for approval.

Related document

Committee packet with Harley Clarke mansion documents (.pdf)

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