Plans to lease the city-owned lakefront Harley Clarke mansion to the non-profit Evanston Lake House and Group advanced at Monday night’s City Council meeting.

The proposed 40-year lease was approved for introduction on a 6-1 vote.

But some aldermen and Mayor Steve Hagerty voiced reservations about the teams of the deal — which only requires the group to raise an $2 million of an estimated $5 million in funds needed to fully restore the building.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, voted to introduce the measure, but said she feels “really uncomfortable about it.” She said she was worried the city will ultimately end up have to ask the group to leave.

Hagerty said he was concerned that the original request for proposals issued by the city specified that the lessee would have to provide the full $5 million in rehab funds, but the Lake House proposal falls short of that.

Tom Hodgman of the Lake House group said the group hopes to be able to do all the renovation work in one initial phase — but wanted to make sure that they would at lease be able to get to being code compliant immediately.

The group so far has raised about $100,000 in cash and pledges for the project. Hodgman says they’re in the midst of seeking architects and fundraising experts to move forward with the project.

Alderman Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward, said the lease represents the culmination of a very long process that probably would have discouranged anybody else and that she’s confident the group ultimately will raise the $5 million to fully rehab the property.

A final vote on the lease is scheduled for the Council’s April 9 meeting.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. can you hear it?
    Leona Helmsley & Alexis Colby. They’re howling with laughter from 3 miles out… halfway between our lighthouse and the still sunken Lady Elgin. Even the East Wind tells me (all the time) that personal confidence without stating a pragmatic rationale for that believing is a little lite.. don’t you think? And even the “Ever Changing Dunes” one hour further south down the shore reminds me (all the time) “You know what they say” …


  2. As much as I support the arts
    This is a bad idea. The uncertainties are too great. Also the City as lessor would remain liable for anything bad that occurs on the property, and no matter what would be included in any lawsuit, further using up limited funds for the City. I’d rather the City just give the property to Colonel Pritzker and have her renovate the place as a B&B.

    1. no kidding……
      well….shoulda, coulda, woulda…….that was the original idea, well-planned by a knowledgeable entrepreneur with money and prestige. Tell us all again WHY that idea got scrapped, and who was responsible for that major flub.

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