Evanston aldermen Monday are scheduled to vote on a proposal to direct the city manager to negotiate a long-term lease of the city-owned lakefront Harley Clarke mansion to the non-profit Evanston Lakehouse & Gardens group.

The group is proposing paying the city $1 a year for the lease — the same fee paid by the former long-term tenant of the property, the Evanston Art Center.

However, in a 20-page business plan, the group pledges to raise from private donors and grants more than $5 million to renovate the property.

The group proposes to operate the building as a self-sustaining “environmental education, outdoor recreation and community gathering space.”

The proposal envisions that a new city lease for the property would contain fundraising and operational performance standards for the group to meet, and that the group’s board would be expanded to include several representatives from the city.

Under the city’s lease agreement with the art center, maintenance responsibilities for the property were split between the city and the center, and the property gradually fell into a state of disrepair.

After determining that the city lacked the funds to restore the building, city officials invited proposals from private developers for the property, but then — in the face of a wave of opposition to the sale — abruptly rejected the only proposal that was submitted, which called for expanding the mansion into a boutique hotel.

Related stories

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Hardball

    I’m sure with some tough negotiating and determination the city can get TWO dollars a year!!

    1. Rent or Sell—at Market Price

      If rented, it should only be to someone/business with proven record of staying in existence and paying bills on time.
      Any rental price should be at ‘market’ rates—I’d assume minimum of $5000 per month.
      No more Council ‘give-a-ways.’

  2. Harley Clarke Mansion

    In the letter to the Council, they say they will raise millions.  But they admit to having $39,000 in gifts & pledges to date.

    From my years as a professional fund raising executive, experience tells me that their chance of raising $$$$ are basically nil.

    The Council should postpone the vote until at least $1,500,000 has been pledged.

Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *