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No one wants to speak for demolition

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The mayor’s Harley Clarke Committee found this morning that nobody wants to present the case at a public meeting next Monday for demolishing the city-owned mansion on the Evanston lakefront — but it did select speakers to make the case for four other options.

Although Committee Chair Steve Hagerty said the committee had received about a half dozen email messages suggesting demolition, and conversion of the building site to parkland, might be the best choice, he could understand why nobody might want to make the case for it.

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, said next week’s session is about getting feedback on all the plausible options, so the committee voted to keep demolition as an option, but not have a presenter for it at the meeting.

Two residents who oppose sale of the mansion — Jeanne Lindwall and Barbara Janes — complained about Hagerty’s decision to extend the deadline over the weekend for people to nominate themselves as speakers. But it turned out the only potential speaker who would have been disqualified if the earlier deadline were imposed would have been another opponent of a sale — Jeff Smith.

The committee chose:

  • Sheila Sullivan, president of the Southeast Evanston Association, to present the case for the city maintaining ownership of the mansion and rehabilitating it for some to-be-determined use.
  • Peter Greene, first vice president of CBRE Hotels, to present the case for selling the building for renovation for a commercial use, such as a hotel or event space..
  • Patrick Donnelly, an advertising executive and developer of the HarleyClarke.com website, to present the case for selling or donating the property to some philanthropic entity that would maintain it.
  • Dave Mazurek, manager of acquisitions at Convexity Properties, to present the case for selling the property for residential redevelopment. (Although the committee originally envisioned R1 single family homes as this alternative, Convexity’s proposal is for a senior citizen assisted living community.)

Each of them will get to make a 10 minute presentation during the meeting. The committee also encouraged the selected presenters to collaborate with several other candidates who weren’t chosen to enhance the presentations.

Grover said she hoped the tone of the workshop would be constructive. “There’s lots of room for good ideas and constructive feedback,” she said. “It shouldn’t be negative — bashing what’s come before us — but looking ahead to what the possibilities are. The best wisdom will be hard to discern if it’s imbedded in incivility and rudeness.”

Hagerty added, “There are different perspectives, and while we may not agree with them, they have some validity. The big thing for next week is that we really get some turnout for this meeting.”

Additional material on the various presenters’ views can be found in the committee packet and an addendum.

The committee plans to collect public feedback at the workshop meeting next Monday at 7 p.m. in the Parasol Room at the Civic Center and from an online survey to be conducted starting next week, which will be accompanied by a video of the meeting. The committee is facing a June 8 deadline to present its report to the City Council.

It appears that after the committee makes its report, the City Council is likely to direct city staff to issue a request for proposals for whichever option or options the aldermen decide to move forward with.

Related story

Panel seeks presenters for mansion ideas (4/30/15)

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