Driving around town with a camera the other day, the thought crossed my mind — why not build affordable housing at the Harley Clarke mansion?

There’s that big lawn out in front of the house, facing Sheridan Road, that’s hardly ever used.

And the city has learned a lot about how to build attractive affordable housing from its partnership with Brinshore building the new Emerson Square development.

Top: The deep lawn in front of the Harley Clarke mansion. Above: a new six-flat affordable housing building at Emerson Square.

While Emerson Square got a kick-start from the city’s $18 million federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant, most of the money came from tax-advantaged private funding Brinshore lined up. So if the city contributed a chunk of the mansion land — a lakefront project just might be financially feasible.

And certainly in a town that prides itself on diversity, one of our least economically diverse neighborhoods could benefit from a dollop of affordable housing …

What’s coming to the former Kendall College site … maybe … someday.

especially after the neighbors ensured that the low- and moderate-income Kendall College students who used to live in the neighborhood would be replaced by residents of million-dollar-plus single family homes.

Why maybe the mansion itself could be turned into senior citizen housing — a bit like the Mallinckrodt in Wilmette.

And the beach could remain open to the public — along with the other park land to the north and south of the mansion.

Just a thought.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Bait much?

    Bill: Affordable housing could and should be an option. Unfortunately, to those who have dealt with you in person regarding the perceived slanted reporting at EvanstonNow, your real intention appears to be playing Concern Troll* in order to bait those neighbors who live around or use the Harley Clarke property and who opposed it being turned into a luxury hotel. 

    If the ever-reliable NIMBY man is given the opportunity to post similarly baiting comments to this article, I will be even more convinced of my suspicions regarding your real motives here. 

    *In Internet slang, a concern troll is someone who posts inflammatory, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking other users into a desired emotional response.

    1. Agreed

      …I'll give him a little space only because he did file under "Viewpoint." But come on Bill, stop milking this non-issue and move on. There will never be "affordable housing" here and to suggest it is simply juvinille…this coming from someone who has been a lifelong resident of Evanston and who lives about as far from the mansion as physically possible….no NIMBY here…move along now…

      1. Why?

        Why should we assume that there cannot be affordable housing in a desirable neighborhood?

        This is city-owned land that the city can use however it chooses.

        And we will never overcome our "drive-by-diversity" problem unless action is taken.

        — Bill

        1. Let someone else work! Kick back with the lake views.

          Well dang- if a lake front mansion becomes "affordable" condos,  I'm going to quit one of my two jobs until I become poor enough to qualify.  WHy work when other people will give you the best on the sweat of their labor?!    I would love to work less. THIs is a great idea. Sign me up!

    2. Who’s baiting who

      It is a fine suggestion, as is the posted apartment/condo suggestion, for a property that is now in need of another serious option.  Probable?  Maybe so maybe no, but certainly possible.

      I believe the City has made public the desire for options and ideas.  Therefore it's unfair to suggest that a "viewpoint" article offering a possible use is "baiting" and "off topic", even worse to make through insinuation the said "viewpoint" into the realm of slanted reporting.

      What is ever reliable are people calling reporting slanted when the reporting doesn't tow the line of their own personal opinions.  Thats also behavior which raises suspicions regarding motives.

  2. Deja Vu

    Talk about a flashback!, after I read the above article, I was wondering when I wrote it, but I couldn't remember.  Too much happy smoke?  One martini too many?  Then I noticed the author and realized that I   did not write it.  I guess it's just that great minds think alike.  Those NIMBY's are going to give you hell on this one!  Bill, you have my sympathies, but this is one GREAT idea!

  3. My concerns would be parking

    My concerns would be parking and public access to the beach, still.  And why not renovate the existing building into maybe 8-12 apartments instead?  Whatever it's used for, we should make sure it's consistent with the "public good" mission it was given to the people of Evanston with.

  4. Funny

    Sheriden Road ain't Emerson Street! Who says anything needs to be where the mansion is.Take the $270,000 need to make Life Safety improvements and bulldoze that peice of rubble into the lake… It would make a better breakwater than anything else. Affordible housing….pull—leeeese!

  5. The poor deserve to live in lakefront property

    Why not convert the Harley Clarke mansion into affordable housing?

    Afterall, the poor deserve to live on the lake.

    Occupy the Harley Clarke mansion!

  6. Affordable lakefront housing is a silly thought

    Better to remove the building entirely and make more public space (park) if we can't afford to repair/maintain the building. Green space is not a bad idea – lower long-term maintenance costs, after all.

    1. Have you noticed       

      Have you noticed how the City maintains its current park land?  Have you seen how the City maintains the trees they planted in sidewalk areas on some of the main streets? Have you taken a look at the design they are putting in place on Davis? On parts of Davis they are creating narrow sidewalks ( start at the Post Office and walk East)

  7. I believe it’s useful to have

    I believe it's useful to have additional ideas offered.  However, I remember this reporter's earlier finding in one of his drive-bys that there were very few lawn signs in defense of Harley-Clarke.  Where did he drive that time?  Plenty of people showed up at meetings, and areas of the city had many and frequent sigsn.  He seemed opposed then to protecting the public site.

    Keep in mind that no public transportation exists in that part of Evanston.  The nearest CTA service is many blocks to the west on Central.  That poses problems for people who have public transporation as their only option.  Is the CTA eager to add a 24 / 7 bus route in Evanston?

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