Both aldermen on the Harley Clarke Committee said Monday night they believe any new use for the city-owned Evanston lakefront mansion needs to be self-supporting — not requiring an operating subsidy from the city.

But it was not clear from the discussion during the committee meeting whether the two — Jane Grover, 7th Ward, and Ann Rainey, 8th Ward — believe the new use also needs to cover the capital cost of renovating the property.

Most of the other mayoral appointees to the committee backed the self-supporting concept, although Linda Damashek raised concerns that such a requirement might rule out the option of continued city ownership and management of the property.

Linda Damashek.

While backers of that option have claimed a city-run mansion could be self-sustaining, the city’s Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department overall now spends $10.8 million a year, while generating only $5.8 million in operating revenue. And the department also will cost taxpayers an additional $5.5 million in capital expenses this year. 

Both aldermen also suggested they would be open to exploring a long-term lease of the mansion property, rather than the outright sale contemplated in several of the options the committee has been exploring.

“Leasing the land under a building is not uncommon,” Rainey said. The Drake Hotel in downtown Chicago is on leased land, she added, “and every five years or so they have to renegotiate the lease payment” based on changes in the value of the property.

Grover said a 99-year lease could be an option — noting that Illinois law prevents lease terms longer than that.

A lease — assuming a potential new operator was willing to agree to it — could be one way to let the city retain a measure of control over the property whether the new entity operating the facility was a for-profit hospitality venture or a non-profit entity.

Members of the committee at the meeting appeared to reach consensus that they don’t much like the option of selling the land for redevelopment as private homes or an assisted living facility.

Committee Chair Steve Hagerty said he’d heard a lot of negative feedback about that, because it would provide no public access to the land.

Alderman Grover said it was her least-favorite option, and Rainey said it was her second-least-favorite — with demolition being at the bottom of her list.

Most comittee members seemed to agree that demolition ranked low on their lists — but Amina DiMarco, a member of the city’s Parks and Recreation Board, said it was close to the top of her list.

“We don’t have enough open park land in the city,” DiMarco said, “and demolition would restore the view of the beach.”

“The cost is minimal and it doesn’t stop the city from doing anything else with the parcel in the future,” she added.

The committee is scheduled to make its final report to the City Council next Monday night.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. The mansion and it’s land

    The mansion and it's land would have been returned to the private sector years ago if it hadn't been leased to the EAC 40+ years ago. Now that the EAC has complete its self-centered free ride, it is time that the city should return it to the private sector so they can start to recover the millions of dollar they have wasted on this failed venture.

    It is about time that our city council show some responsibility toward the taxpayers, rather than their special intrest friends. The city should not build any patios on Howard street, parking lots on Chicago avenue, or special places for their friends on Sheridan road.

    1. The mansion and its land

      ~~The City Council made a horrendous error when they asked for then voted against Jennifer Pritzker’s preliminary proposal for the Harley-Clarke Mansion rehabilitation. How do they recover from that? It is obvious to almost everyone that the building needs to be self-sustaining since the City seems incapable of consistently managing and caring for its public works.

      The building should be sold for development by private entities, and the land should be leased, not sold, remaining as part of the City of Evanston. This historic mansion should not be demolished for additional parkland as suggested by a member of the city’s Parks and Recreation Board, because the City does not have the money or track record for its oversight, and the loss of another landmark building does not bode well for Evanston. This City is enriched by its history and landmarks. I would hate to think what Evanston would be without them. Plus they would lose real estate tax revenue. 

      Put the historic Harley-Clarke Mansion in the hands of someone who has the means to do the right thing. It is just too bad that Jennifer Pritzker’s generosity was hastily, short-sightedly, and unceremoniously rebuffed.  

  2. Expand the Parking Lot for 8th and 9th Ward Migration!
    If the building ends up being demolished, perhaps we can expand the parking lot for the 8th and 9th Ward residents who will need a place to park at one of the beaches north of us since we can’t park at our own beach on South Boulevard…. thanks to the ridiculous “fix” that limits parking spaces and parking time which is being “tested” due to the assertion of a few neighbors on that two block stretch of rampant prostitution and drug dealing. I guess my tax dollars neither pay for my right to park near my public beach nor for the police to get out there and perform a bit of surveillance to catch some of this rampant crime in the parking section of said beach. Land grab at the beach in South Evanston…. what say you, North Evanston, to that???? Yep, we are coming your way folks! Because, at the very least, we can park more than 3 hours at a beach near you!

    1. 8th and 9th ward?
      “If the building ends up being demolished, perhaps we can expand the parking lot for the 8th and 9th Ward residents who will need a place to park at one of the beaches north of us since we can’t park at our own beach on South Boulevard….”

      Sorry, Muneaux, but you got your wards mixed up. The ‘land grab’ that you mention is being orchestrated by AlderNIMBY Melissa Wynne, of the 3rd Ward.

      Residents of the 8th and 9th ward usually don’t engage in these silly NIMBY activities. They care more about real crime and development in their neighborhoods.

      1. Hi Enquiring Mind!

        Hi Enquiring Mind!

        I concur that the land grab is being orchestrated by the 3rd Ward, but it is the 8th and 9th that are going to be most affected since that is the beach closest to us.  We are far enough from the lakefront that we will need  to drive over if we intend to tote any beach items for a day at the beach.  My husband and I usually take two chairs, a blanket, several towels, beach umbrellas and a cooler.  Historically, we have gone every Saturday and spent 4 hours there.  Limiting the parking and also the time is going to impact many people. 

        I only hope that my lovely 9th Ward neighbor, who has done a lot of research on this topic, is able to get Mayor Tisdahl's program of beach tokens for the disadvantaged pushed into the schools in South Evanston.  That program is not currently run through our schools, but through libraries and a few other venues, none of which exist in the 8th or 9th Ward.  I would love to go to the beach and see it overrun with children!

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