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Aldermen vote to reopen Harley Clarke mansion

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Evanston aldermen Monday adopted a compromise plan developed by Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, to re-open the lakefront Harley Clarke mansion.

It was a modification of one he had proposed almost a year ago when the Council instead voted to shut the building awaiting a hoped-for resolution of the state's financial crisis.

The changes he proposed Monday that became part of the plan approved by aldermen:

  • Reduced the spending cap for renovations from $500,000 to $250,000. 
  • Dropped plans to rehab two apartments in the mansion's coach house for use as affordable housing, on the theory the city's affordable housing funds could better be spent elsewhere

The envisions using the mansion next summer for recreation programs — some of which would be moved from the fog houses on the nearby lighthouse property.

The proposal also directs the Parks and Recreation Board and the Lighthouse Landing Complex Committee to work with city staff to develop a plan for future operation of the property starting in 2018. Those plans could involve use by community groups and non-profit organizations.

It also directs city staff to create a Harley Clarke mansion account within the Evanston Parks Foundation to receive donations to support improvements to the property.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, criticized the plan as "the same old same old. We're going to continue to run Harley Clarke as a city facility."

She said the property "is a money pit that the city cannot afford" and voiced hopes that that "somebody out there" among residents talking about "a public-private partnership" would come up with a new solution. But in the end Rainey voted in favor of Wilson's proposal.

Alderman Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward, said she supported Wilson's plan to open the mansion in the short term and let the Parks and Recreation Board help develop a longer-term plan that hopefully would include private fundraising.

Related story

Mansion's future is back on council's agenda (9/11/16)

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