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Evanston aldermen Monday are scheduled to again try to figure out what to do with the city-owned Harley Clarke mansion on the lakefront.

Last October the City Council voted to table a decision on spending any money on the building until the state’s budget issues had been resolved.

The state now has a stop-gap six-month budget, which has led Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, to request a renewed debate about the mansion — but the longer-range prospects for cuts in state aid to the city appear at least as grim as they did last year.

In the meantime, Evanston Lakehouse and Gardens, a non-profit group that has advanced plans for an estimated $4.5 million renovation of the building, has fallen far short of its fundraising goals — raising $3,691 in cash as of this evening toward a $10,000 GoFundMe campaign goal in over two months, and only $25,000 in unenforceable pledges during a two-month campaign last year.

More than five years ago the city started looking for new uses for the mansion. It ended up receiving just one proposal to redeveloping it — from Jennifer Pritzker, who sought to expand the building and turn it into a boutique hotel. The City Council rejected that plan out-of-hand on a 6-3 vote after some residents protested the idea of any commercial development of the property.

The controversy did lead the mansion’s long-time $1-a-year tenant, the Evanston Art Center, to launch a fundraising drive of its own, which ultimately enabled it to move to larger, better quarters on Central Street.

The city’s Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department currently spends $11.8 million a year, while bringing in revenue of just $5.8 million.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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5 Comments

  1. Do the Right Thing
    Stop wasting time and taxpayer money. The mansion and most of its land are not part of any park, It is just like the Howard St. buildings that the city owns and like those buildings, it should return to the private sector. We don’t need another EAC screwing the City of Evanston. Any social activist group will not be able to be self-sustaining and will be at the city’s door step asking that the taxpayers foot the bill, like they have been doing for the last 40 years.

    The council should stop pussy footing around. Turn the liability into an asset by selling it to the private sector. Get it overwith.

    1. Strongly Agree!  Will Col.

      Strongly Agree!  Will Col. Pritzker still take this off the City's hands and turn it into a handsome, tax-generating property as she has done with two lovely B&Bs.

  2. Harley Clarke on Council Agenda

    Why not reach out to Good News Partners, Night Ministry, Camali and other local-area not-for-profits that deal with aspects of the issues related to homelessness.

    Harley Clarke could be a good space for these organizations to work collaboratively as they use their institutional expertise to address homeless issues throughout our region,

    Just to address Evanston's famous NIMBY's, Harley Clarke would NOT become a Homeless Shelter, but a space for groups that serve the homeless to collaborate.

  3. Options

    The city of Chicago's success in converting lovely public space space for private purposes (presidential library) could be a viable template. 

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