Evanston alders are scheduled Monday night to discuss ways to take another crack at finding a new use for the city-owned lakefront Harley Clarke mansion.

After more than a decade of failed efforts to find a new use for the property, Cade Sterling, of the city’s planning staff, is scheduled to outline three broad options for a new approach:

  • Finding a new use for the mansion as a publicly-funded project.
  • Selling the mansion for a private project.
  • Establishing a public-private partnership project.

Sterling’s memo suggests that the biggest issues with having the city rehabilitate and operated the mansion on its own are the limited potential funding sources and limited prospects for generating income to cover operating and maintenance costs.

Selling the mansion to a private developer would provide access to a full range of incentives and tax credits to fund the renovation, he says. But while the city could leverage its ownership of the property to get development agreements and easements to try to assure that public development goals were met, that solution would reduce public control over the project.

A public-private partnership, Sterling says, could limit access to some funding incentives and tax credits but can be difficult to make work because of “perceived or real adversarial relationships between private and public interests.”

Sterling says Landmarks Illinois has offered to assist the city in efforts to market the mansion for adaptive use, provide suggestions on viable financing strategies and update the conditions assessment for the property.

He says marketing the building would most commonly be done with a Request for Expression of Interest.

That process, he says, is different from the previous Request for Proposals process the city has used because the expression of interest model “shows the city is open to discovery and seeks to solicit a myriad of potential solutions, while an RFP seeks to solicit offers for a prescribed solution.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. A fourth option is the correct one. Please tear this building down, care for the garden, protect the dunes, add a little more parking. Enough already.

  2. A natural garden and park is truly an option for everyone to enjoy, instead of an eyesore building that’s been empty for years and is too expensive for the city to maintain. Too bad many in Evanston were so ridiculously opposed to this option years ago.

  3. I think every voter that voted yes on the Save the Harley Clarke Mansion should contribute to the maintenance of the unused property until it’s either put to use and pays it’s own way or it’s demolished and made into green space!

  4. For those that want to tear it down, why don’t we just take a big pile of tax money down to Fountain Square and light it on fire?!? This is a valuable asset. It has been mismanaged by the City and our inept Council for years, but it is still valuable. Impose an easement to allow public access to the beach, which seems universally desired, and sell it.

    1. Have you been inside the building? I have many times. Have you looked at the ceilings on the top floor? The only value here is the land and it is extraordinarily valuable.

      And by the way, the fountains in “Fountain Square” don’t work. A fire would be bad.

      Let’s expand on this… Evanston doesn’t work anymore. We have a council, mayor, and city manager that are over-the-top incompetent. They are a disaster.

  5. Einstein would probably call the city council and manager insane. All these three alternatives have been tried in the past and failed. Here we go again trying the same things and expecting a different result.

  6. Yes. Demolish the building and focus on the landscape. I don’t want to read months from now that Evanston is paying consultants to help decide what to do with HC.

  7. So tired of hearing about this old, rotting house. Unload the thing if possible but keep part of the land if it’s needed for public beach access and be done with it. No more of our time ir money should be spent on this farce.

  8. If only the town could find a billionaire who would put $60 million + dollars into the place, a restaurant and inn, underground parking with 24/7 security for the drivers of 200 cars.

    Totally renewed and maintained Jens Jensen garden snd solarium.

    Unfettered beach access for all time . Kayak rentals. Tens of thousands in permit fees, millions in build payroll, ongoing jobs and sales tax income.

    If only!

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