A sale of Evanston’s lakefront Harley Clarke mansion to the State of Illinois, which appeared to be on a fast track last month, now has been delayed at least until after next month’s election.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz indicated when aldermen voted to authorize him to negotiate the sale of the building that he hoped to wrap up the talks quickly.

The unspoken reason appeared to be a desire to get the deal done before a possible change at the top in Springfield after the upcoming gubernatorial election.

But Bobkiewicz said on Saturday that he won’t have an update about the negotiations until the Dec. 1 meeting of the City Council’s Human Services Committee, and the latest manager’s office weekly report has the mansion question not scheduled to come before the full City Council until sometime next year.

Bobkiewicz declined to offer any details behind the reason for the delay or the current status of the talks with the state Department of Natural Resources, which has proposed moving its Coastal Management Program offices to the mansion.

The city has spent several years now seeking a solution that would relieve it of the cost of maintaining the mansion building while preserving public access to the adjoining Lighthouse Beach.

After several decades at the mansion on a $1 a year lease, the Evanston Art Center is planning to move to new quarters at 1717 Central St.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. It is insane that Evanston

    It is insane that Evanston continues to facilitate the state to spend millions of dollars. This is worse than the trader joes deal which was, we thought, stupid as stupid gets.

    Whether the state buys or rents they will be paying with our tax dollars. When the state fixes the mess at the mansion they will spend millions of our tax dollars. They will also be required to make major interior changes, required by state and federal law, for the handicapped. In otherwords, They'll need an elevator.

    Any classes that  will be provided will be provided for everyone, not just Evanston. The same classes can be had at their current location and save the taxpayers millions of dollars.

    The state will not pay taxes of any kind and will not provide any ongoing income for Evanston. The state will use over half the existing available parking reducing access to the beach and lighthouse.

    Can anybody come up with anything positive about a deal With the state. I doubt it.

    Remember the deal the city didn't make, the Pritzker deal.

    • 1 to 2 million for the city to sell the mansion.
    • $ 500,000+ to the city every year from property taxes, sales taxes, and hotel taxes.
    • 17 million dollars to create a jewel on the lake.
    • Increased public parking.
    • Increased public access to the beach and lighthouse.
    • Owner will be an Evanston resident.

    You pick the best deal for Evanston.

    1. Exactly!

      Thanks for an excellent synopsis of what should happen which will be ignored by the Council due to its raging good sense.

    2. SKIPW – you are spot on!
      Skip – I’ll only add one bullet to your list – we would have had a lovely lakefront restaurant with a terrace. A beautiful summer day, flowers perfuming the air, radiant blue sky competing with the blue of the lake…. what Evanston resident wouldn’t have enjoyed sipping a cocktail to the tune of Lake Michigan’s rolling surf? For that matter, the nearest place I can think of where the lakefront hosts a restaurant is down at North Avenue Beach. We would have had the Jewel of the Northshore! Our city really passed up quite an opportunity.

  2. harley clarke mansion
    i won’t repeat my comments from last year which concur completely with those commentors who regret that the city didn’t accept the idea and work with jennifer pritzker. it would have provided enhancements to the parking and access to our lighthouse beach, and would have been a win-win situation all around, but it conflicted with the gospel truth uttered by the opponents: “NO PUBLIC LAND FOR PRIVATE USE”. interesting that those folks said nothing when plans were afoot to tear down the civic center and sell it and its attached PUBLIC park to a developer….

    an alternative which i suggested to the city manager when this issue first surfaced is to do what the village of oak park has done with its elizabeth cheney mansion; its owned by the oak park park district, has been rehabbed, and is used for classes and meetings plus is rented out for all kinds of events, thus bringing a significant amount of revenue to the village and park district. our oldest daughter had her wedding ceremony and reception there; a huge success and a lovely venue. imagine a wedding on our lakefront on a beautiful summer day.

    with the addition of a wonderful year-round restaurant on the shore, managed by a restaurant company that could also be used for private events, we would have a terrific addition to our city.

    maybe the whole state proposal will fall through (my earnest hope) and we can go back to the drawing board and get a good solution that will bring in some revenue and enhance our reputation. the director of the cheney mansion is willing to come and talk to our council committee and the council to provide any data they would be interested in.

    mary brugliera

  3. What about the Millions the council wastes?

    Why such a concern to sell the mansion?   Any of your bother to go the budget hearing were the city council did even bother to discuss the 10% water bill increase.  Or the fact they are budgeting $2 million dollars for Robert Crown design which I do not recall they ever even approved. What about the other $2 million they have in for the design of the resorvoir next year in the budget, they haven't even approved this nor has the study been done.

    They are robbing us, blind, items like Harley Clarke, draw the public away from the council real misuse of our money.  By the way any of you think we should be building patios with our money?

    The Harley Clarke deal is NO deal for the city, The day Wally can explain how he operates the city of Evanston Water utility in an honest intelligent manner, that is how it runs as a business,I might start listening, any of you want to explain the so called economic development deals on Howard street and OUR real return on investment!

    Maybe some of you should go look at the repave job city workers did at the Civic Center to the Mayors, and Wallys parking space when they are going to repave the entire lot in a year. Its very interesting how they jointed the two areas of asphalt. Wally and his council member friends are removing $700,000 from the motor tax fund for maintenance which use to go for capital.

    Please stop worrying about sell our park land, and focus on the total mismanagement of the city!



  4. Hopefully an end to the deal with the State
    I hope the new governor puts a stop to this deal. The state already has enough offices for every conceivable ‘purpose.’ We don’t need another bureaucratic group coming to ‘fill’ some undefined goal that probably can be accomplished with one or two people—if even necessary. If the ‘function’ has some purpose, give them an office in city hall and put the property on the [tax paying] market.

  5. Viable Plan for Harley Clarke Mansion

    After spending over 8 years Independently Volunteering abroad, I am coming back to Illinois, and making Evanston home.

    The Hartley Clarke Mansion has the ability to be an exquisite place again, and we have a Viable Plan for it that was sent to a few Aldermen.

    Alderman Mark Tendam expressed an interest in discussing the Plan I sent via email, but so far, we have not yet been able to set-up a definitive time to discuss it. Therefore, I am placing a portion of it here. Here is one of the communications I sent for his perusal. He responded by asking for a meeting via phone, or in-person

    Greetings Alderman Mark Tendam:

    Being from a small town too, but smaller than Evanston, creating or
    preserving a great image of it is important.

    I have always loved mansions of antiquity, and relish the preservation
    of them for now, and the future.

    It is one of the reasons I am interested in establishing, and
    implementing a Viable Plan for the Harley Clarke Mansion.

    At the suggestion of Benjamin Schaefer, I am contacting you about the
    Plans for it which will be Beneficial for the City, Tourists, and its

    We are forming an L3C here in the State of Illinois to implement some
    of the Plans.

    After more than 15 years of Domestic and Int'l Business experience,
    the opportunity came for me leave the USA for awhile to Travel and

    After 8 years abroad in 10 countries (though retired for the second
    time, but not quite retirement age), I am doing the same as my
    grandfather: making use of the seemingly limitless creativity, and
    energy I possess, for something good.

    Since an L3C works similar to an 501(c)(3), but without State and
    Federal Benefits, and low profitability, some of our Plans for the
    Harley Clarke Mansion will be a Good Fit. They are both National &

    1. A Home Away from Home for students/professionals.. 2. Tourist
    Attraction. 3. Domestic & Int'l Distribution Center.

    Please inform me of your interest, and other suggestions.

    Kind regards.

    A. McCray, Founder
    Volunteer Doctors Coalition Corp

    1. Northshore International Visitor’s Center

      Thanks for adding to the discussion.  Really time for everyone to start thinking outside the box.  How about a Northshore International Visitor's Center?  Collaboration between the City of Evanston, Northwestern (think about the 101 million gift they just received, thank you Roberta Buffett Elliott), Rotary International, Northshore businesses, etc., etc. which have a global orientation.  Time to leverage and collaborate  Just a thought.

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