Members of 41 households from across the city have pledged funds toward the estimated $400,000 cost of demolishing the city-owned Harley Clarke mansion on the Evanston lakefront.

Foes of the demolition plan have claimed that the financial supporters are mainly persons whose view of the lake from their private homes would be improved by removing the mansion.

But internet searches to identify the home addresses of the named supporters turned up the following results:

  • Six households live either adjacent to or directly across the street from the park complex that includes the mansion.
  • Nine live within a quarter mile of the mansion but don’t have a view of it.
  • Seven live more than a quarter mile but within a mile of the mansion.
  • 12 live between one and three miles from the mansion.

We were unable to match seven names on the list to a specific address.

The information provided in Monday’s City Council packet does not indicate how much money each of the supporters has pledged to the project.

Aldermen Monday are scheduled to vote on whether to execute a funding agreement with the Evanston Lighthouse Dunes group and to begin the lengthy review process that could lead to demolition of the mansion.

Under the funding agreement, members of the dunes group commit to collect and donate $400,000 to the city for the demolition project within 60 days of the city receiving final approval to demolish the mansion.

Assuming aldermen vote in favor of Monday’s proposal, the process to actually gain authorization to demolish the mansion would proceed as follows:

  1. Once the city filles its application for demolition approval, the Preservation Commission would vote within 45 days on whether to approve the certificate of appropriateness.
  2. Assuming the commission votes against demolition, the city then would have 30 days to appeal the denial to the City Council.
  3. Assuming the City Council overturns the Preservation Commission recommendation, demolition opponents could then appeal the City Council’s decision to the Circuit Court of Cook County, a process that could potentially delay further action for months or years.
  4. If the court sides with the demolition opponents, the city may apply under the preservation ordinance for a “certificate of special merit” or a “certificate of economic hardship.”
  5. The City Council itself would review the “certificate of special merit” request. A “certificate of economic hardship” would first be reviewed by the Preservation Commission and then by the City Council.

The city acquired the Harley Clarke property in 1965 to expand lakefront public parkland. Over the past six years the city has considered several options for adaptive reuse of the property, but hasn’t found any use that aldermen could agree was in the city’s best interest to approve.

Most recently, in April, aldermen rejected a proposal from the Evanston Lakehouse and Gardens group to turn the building into an ecology education center after concluding the group hadn’t demonstrated the fundraising capacity to carry out renovations to the building that were estimated to cost in the neighborhood of $5 million.

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Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. House of pledge cards

    Nature and time may determine the outcome faster than the motions of bureaucracy.

  2. Harley Clarke mansion.
    So the group hasn’t demonstrated the fundraising capacity to carry out renovations to the building that were estimated to cost in the neighborhood of $5 million.
    They’ve raised $200,000 dollars so far and that’s with the city giving no temporary lease to the mansion. If they were to give a real lease to the group, I and many more Evanstonian’s would gladly pony up monetary gifts that would total the 5 million that is needed to restore this beautiful property from a older era. There would probably even be some corporate sponsorships that would make up the bulk of the restoration. Why not give it a shot? What have we got to lose? Except for the Mansion.

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