Evanston aldermen Monday are scheduled to approve a request for proposals document to find a new use for the Harley Clarke mansion.

The draft RFP prepared by staff indicates the city will consider either a sale or long-term lease of the mansion and its coach house, but intends to maintain ownership of the land underneath both buildings.

It also obligates the would-be new users of the buildings to “protect and maintain the adjacent Jens Jensen Garden,” although it does not offer to lease the garden space to the winning bidder.

The draft RFP notes that the property is zoned for open space, but it does not address whether the city would consider rezoning for the buildings.

The city’s open space zone allows only the following as permitted uses: arboreata, botanical garden, community center – public, conservatory, cultural facility, educational institution – public, forest preserve, golf course – public, park, playground and recreation center – public.

It’s only allowed special uses are cemetery and zoological garden.

Some aldermen have indicated they would be open to residential, office or other uses for the mansion not incuded in the open space list — and they may wish to clarify in the RFP Monday whether the city would consider rezoning for a new use.

The RFP specifies that submitted proposas must include some public component — such as a cafe, museum, classes or garden — but doesn’t specify the extent to which the buildings must be open to the public and says “the public component is at the imagination of the proposer and the city has no specifications for what this could entail.”

The RFP specifies that the lessee or buyer would have to protect the historic character of the buildings and bear he expense of substantial renovation of the building to meet building codes.

The document specifies an extensive options for would-be proposers to tour the property and attend two optional community meetings ahead of the planned deadline of Feb. 28, 2020 for submitting proposals.

The three-story mansion has about 20,275 square feet of space, and the coach house, with its three car garage, adds an additional 4,383 square feet.

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Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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