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Art center may be ousted from mansion

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Evanston's city manager tonight will ask aldermen to terminate the Evanston Art Center's lease at the Harley Clarke mansion so the city can pursue plans to have a state agency take over the building.

Consultants to the art center have concluded that the mansion needs more than $5 million in improvements to bring it up to code and make it more suitable for the center's continued use.

Leaders of the center, which operates with a roughly $1 million annual budget, have concluded that they don't have the resources to pay for those improvements.

They've looked, so far unsuccessfully, for an alternative space for at least the last two years, and are asking the city for at least two more years at the mansion to be able to continue that search.

Under terms of the lease, the city is only required to give the center 240 days notice to move out.

Officials of the Coastal Management Program of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, after a community meeting last month, reaffirmed to city officials last week that they are interested in moving into the mansion 

They're hoping to reach an agreement with the city by this spring that would let them move into the building this fall or winter.

The art center has leased the mansion from the city for decades for $1 a year, plus taking responsibility for upkeep of the building.

The state officials have said they have the resources to make needed improvements to the building and pay the city a market-rate rent for its use.

If aldermen on the Human Services Committee recommend terminating the lease tonight, the issue could be on the agenda for next week's meeting of the full City Council.

Related document

Human Services Committee meeting packet (.pdf)

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