Evanston aldermen Monday are scheduled to consider a 40-year lease of the lakefront Harley Clarke mansion to a non-profit group that’s pledging to raise over three years only 40 percent or less of the money estimated to be needed to fully rehabilitate the structure.
Under tems of the agreement, Evanston Lake House and Gardens would have to raise $2 million over the next three years to fund phase one improvements to the mansion. If it failed to come up with that money by the deadline, the city could cancel the lease.
But the deal sets no deadlines or requirements for ELHG to come up with funds to restore the rest of the property — work estimated to cost between an additional $3 million and $5.5 million — and gives the city no recourse against ELHG if that work is never completed.
A rendering showing a rehabbed conservatory at the mansion used as a meeting space.
The phase one rehab work is to focus on making the building code compliant and accessible to persons with disabilities.
Assuming it meets the initial fundraising goal, the Lakehouse group hopes to complete the initial rehab work and reopen the building for public use in 2023.
The group would also owe the city rent of $1 per year for the 40-year term of the agreement.
The city would continue to maintain the building and grounds until the first phase improvements are completed and then maintain the grass and trees around the building for the full term of the lease.
Other than the initial $2 million fundraising goal, the new agreement bears striking similarities to the city’s previous $1 a year, 40-year deal to lease the property to the Evanston Arts Center, which ended unhappily in 2015 amid acrimony about who was responsible for maintenance to the property.
The Lake House group hopes to operate a community center and meeting space in the building that would focus on environmental education activities.
Because it’s a long-term lease of city property, the agreement will require a two-thirds majority vote of the aldermen for approval.