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Evanston aldermen discussed in three closed-door sessions in recent months a proposal from Col. James N. Pritzker to buy the lakefront Harley Clarke mansion and 2.5 acres of land around it for $1.2 million.

That’s less than half the value assigned the property in an appraisal last year.

Release of the minutes of the executive session meetings was sought by the Evanston RoundTable, which also learned that audio recordings of two of the meetings, which are legally required to be retained for 18 months, had instead been destroyed because of an error by city staff.

The Pritzker plan calls for retaining the mansion at 2603 Sheridan Road and building additions to create a 57-room boutique hotel and underground parking on the site. The city would retain ownership of the Lake Michigan beach to the east of the mansion.

The $1.2 million proposal was mentioned in minutes of the first meeting, in December. The minutes of more recent meetings suggest Pritzker was open to raising his offer for the property.

The minutes, as summarized by the RoundTable, don’t provide details of what revenue benefits the city might derive from returning the property to the tax rolls or from hotel, sales and liquor tax revenue that might be generated by the project.

They do indicate substantial skepticism among aldermen about various aspects of the plan.

After leasing the mansion for decades to the Evanston Arts Center for $1 a year, the city has found itself without funds to do expensive deferred maintenance on the building.

That led to public discussion of the possibility of leasing or selling the mansion building itself or the mansion plus land around it to a private entity.

The city issued a request for proposals, which drew several inquiries, but Pritzker submitted the only formal proposal by the late-November deadline.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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36 Comments

  1. Mansion

    Is this mansion allegedly "historic"?

    Would a prospective buyer be allowed to tear it down and replace it with newer buildings, or have the NIMBYs declared that this mansion must remain in place, or only be replaced by a R1 house?

  2. col. pritzker’s bid for harley clark mansion

    hello, evanston now friends:

    i sounded off once before on the subject of col. pritzker's renovation of houses that became/will become b and bs in east evanston.

    i have a few comments on his bid for this property.

    the city was getting $1/year from the evanston art center, as is common when non-profits the city wants to support lease a property.  the deferred maintenance has become a problem, and so another solution must be found.  

    as i noted before, this man's avocation, now that he is retired, is spending millions of his own money to renovate and restore landmarks and put them to new use.  i think that is an admirable use of one's time and resources.  witness his restoration of the emil bach house on sheridan road in chicago and its next-door-neighbor, now both b and bs, and his award-winning renovation of the monroe building in chicago on michigan avenue.

    the upper-middle class travelers (vacationers, foreign visitors and parents of nu students) would jump at the chance to stay at a boutique hotel on the lake.  i certainly would!  and then think of the benefits to the city:  restoration of an evanston and national register landmark, residents shopping and eating in evanston, the owner paying hefty real estate and hotel taxes, removal of above-ground and neighborhood parking, and some others i can't think of right now.

    so i would urge the city council and economic development committee to look carefully at col. pritzker's bid. compare his bid to the amount of money evanston paid northwestern for the little property on chicago avenue that was a donation for trader joe's parking lot, and then go for it.  perhaps he will offer more.  

     i also must register my disappointment at many critics of col. pritzker's various activities that seem based on a fairly typical dislike of very wealthy people that i hear from some on the political left.  as my son-in-law says, somewhere, somehow, someone worked very hard for that money.  and when wealthy people choose to spend their wealth on projects that benefit the community, we should say thank you, and support them.  stereotypical thinking about "rich people"  is not worthy of the smart, educated people of evanston.

    mary brugliera

    1. Blame the left

      "i also must register my disappointment at many critics of col. pritzker's various activities that seem based on a fairly typical dislike of very wealthy people that i hear from some on the political left.  as my son-in-law says, somewhere, somehow, someone worked very hard for that money."

      No, Mary…this isn't about the 'political left'.  The people who oppose Pritzker and his B&B's aren't leftists, they are NIMBYs.

      NIMBYs are definitely not leftists….they are status-concious petty bourgeois.   While they are willing to spout a little rhetoric about Pritzker being an evil billionaire, the NIMBYs don't object on principle to great wealth.  And their feud isn't with Pritzker – if Prizker and his billionaire relatives decided to move to Evanston, the NIMBYs would be ecstatic.  

      What the NIMBYs won't allow is renters, short-term residents, college students, and others who don't live up to the image that NIMBYs have of themselves.  The NIMBYs of Wards 7, 3, and most of all Judy FIske's First Ward think that they are quite important because they are long-time (or native) Evanston residents who live in Single Family R1 homes.  A  B&B -suggesting that their neighborhood is "commercial" – interferes with their illusion of living in an exclusive , residential neighborhood of similarly important people.  And a B&B, or hotel, would allow ANYONE to just come to that neighborhood…how vulgar!

      If you really think that the NIMBYs are leftists, Mary – – see what would happen if someone proposed affordable rental housing in the neighborhood….or better yet, perhaps Erie could open its clinic at the mansion, since 'leftists' are always promoting health care for the lower income crowd.

       

      And your conclusion is hilarious: "is not worthy of the smart, educated people of evanston."  NIMBYs are not smart or educated…they are ignorant, mean, and fearful.

      1. Col. Pritzker is pulling the

        Col. Pritzker is pulling the same thing in Rogers Park – except down there, it's leveling an historic house in favor of a multi-level lakefront PARKING GARAGE, for a property he's already purchased.  Joe Moore is already firmly and enthusiastically in Pritzker's pocket, in his current quest to curry favor with Rahm Emanuel; are the citizens of Evanston OK with its entire city council doing the same? Lord, I do hope not! 

    2. Good thought Mary

      Agree with your comments on the disdain for the rich in Evanston.  I personally have met quite a few wealthier Evanstonians  who benefit from daddy's trust (and tax status), but feel that those who are working and making money are something to be looked down upon.   I have complete respect for those who choose to work hard, and give away their own money while living in a small abode.  If you walk the talk, then speak your truth.

        HOwever, it's just hypocrisy to say one thing, but live another way like many many of the extremely liberal wealthy do in Evanston. (PUll out the soap box and chant with me- Be green!  Drive a Prius!  Rich pay higher taxes! . But nevermind that I  have to take 6 plane ride vacations a year to far off places and live in a huge home, and make special purchases before the taxes on daddy's trust fund increase.)

      I like the idea of Pritzker turning this into a B& B, as long as he keeps the lighthouse beach intact and makes parking underground.   However, I also hope the city plays hard ball with the price of this property.  The current offer is far too low for market value.  

    3. Let’s start by not funding bars and theaters

      It isn't on the National Register. There are only three in Evanston, according to the nps.gov website:

      Dawes, Charles G., House  Evanston  Illinois  Building
      Grosse Point Lighthouse  Evanston  Illinois  District
      Willard, Frances, House  Evanston  Illinois  Building

      I agree the restoration would be nice, but to sell such a premium property site (lakefront) for such a small amount seems a bit….cozy.

      There have been too many funny deals here in the past and we need to make sure such isn't the case here.

      What would the market say to an offer of prime lakefront property, next door to a National Register property and a park? Forget about the Hadley mansion. Tear it down and you'd still be able to get a premium price for the property. Sure it was once a private property, eventually deeded to the city. But before it was private, it was public property, so this is its natural state.

      If the city is trying just to raise money to balance its books, stop giving money to fund bars and theaters. That would be a good start, rather than selling high-value assets.

  3. Why not a lease?

    Lease it to him for 100 years at $50,000 per year–a win-win.

  4. Investing in La-La-Land?

    Nothing assures the city that any benefits will accrue to it from having put in place an upscale hotel at below market rates.  If that's what economic development means, and we do the same for Piven, we continue to invest in La-La Land.

  5. Invest in the building’s repair

    How about investing, as the city does frequently, into some business. A wine bar, perhaps? Or how about a theater?

    If we can invest in those things, certainly we should be able to invest in the repair of this building, at least. We have made millions of dollars of investments into odd things, why not try and hold onto something that is an Evanston landmark, if not an historic one?

  6. Pritzker’s low bid for Evanston’s lakefront is unacceptable

    This is not only a bad deal for everyone in Evanston: it's downright insulting.

    The billionaire Pritzker is offering only $1.2 million of 2.5 acres of prime lakefront property!!! That is unacceptable!

    The city manager and the Council should have ended negotiations right on the spot and sent out another bid to LEASE the property. On the face of it, I think $3 million is a low appraisal for 2.5 acres of prime lakefront property. The very idea our city leaders are still negotiating with Pritzker on this deal should sound the alarm bells.

    On top of that, the audio tapes of the meeting of Human Service Committee, which was discussing the terms and conditions of the proposed sale lakefront property, were destroyed. That also is unacceptable and someone should be disciplined.

    The Council should NOT sell OUR lakefront property.

    1. Agree completely

      This number is absolutely ludicrous.  2.5 acres of virtually pristine lakefront property, with beach access, on the Evanston/Wilmette border?  Multiply that $1.2 million dollar figure by a factor of ten.   Why would the City of Evanston even consider handing over something of this value to private ownership for such a nonsensical pittance?  

      And this is the same silly city council that turned up their collective noses at letting the Tilted Kilt open a location downtown, if memory serves.  I find this notion – and the closed door meetings and supposedly "accidentally" erased meeting tapes more offensive by that same factor of ten.  Shameful.  As noted by more than one respondent above, once this property is gone, the City of Evanston can never get it back.  

  7. Turn mansion into much-needed banquet facility

    My husband and I attend so many benefits, weddings, special occassions in Evanston. We, along with most everyone we've spoken with, have found it sad that Evanston does not have a waterfront fine dining or event venue.  The comment has always been, "Wouldn't the Evanston Art Center location be a great?"

    This is the opportunity. That $1.2 million would be made up easily in booked events, contracts with caterers, valet parking, you name it.

    Has the city even considered this option?

  8. It’s a reasonable bid

    It is a perfectly reasonable bid.  It should only be considered a low bid if the proposal were to demolish the property for new commercial development. 

    As is the bid retains and refurbishes the building, something everyone seems to desire.  The refurbishing and the addition to make the project long term self sustaining will cost many-many-many more millions than the bid price.  

    When that is taken into consideration the bid is more than reasonable.  Otherwise the property can continue to deterioate until it reaches a stage beyond repair and need demolition. 

    It's a fabulous sounding proposal to retain the property and the city would be short sighted to not work with this offer. 

    Only request I would make is that a dining/cafe facility be built with a patio facing the lake, I for one would love to enjoy open air lunches there, that would be a fantastic place the whole community could enjoy.    

    1. Sometimes old is just old

      "As is the bid retains and refurbishes the building, something everyone seems to desire"

      Not everyone.

      I don't understand this fascination with old buildings.  I would like a nice, shiny building there on the lakefront.

  9. Is it a good offer?

    Lots of talk on all sides of this one that seem to oscillate from those who simply want a new building to replace the old, those who feel that any use is better than none, those who fear any spending, and, of course those who view giving away the lakefront, beach and other amentities is wrong.

    I won't go into all of what has been written but for the record the building is an Evanston Landmark and not a historic or architectural landmark. The City got it from one of NU's fraternities that did a masterful job of trashing it before leaving it to the City and providing little in the way of maintenance. The City, BTW did not do much for years either if you look at the big greenhouse (now metal-working shop)along the south  that got a roof but is a wooden structure ready for massive help, or the exterior and the greenhouse west of the coachhouse that is completely abandoned.

    Nevertheless if you search the various City maps and other data you find that this property seems to belong to the City from Sheridan to the lake. The Lighthouse next door was federal propoerty and has a different legal status although it may belong to the City under some arrangement regarding the lighthouse. There is a park to the north that is Lighthouse Park District but they have no beach. Then we have more City land. Basically a mess that has pepole walking across various legal entities and one can only imaging what may happen when the hotel prevent you from getting to the handicapped park playground or whatever (Mary B – kiss the Jen Jensen firepit goodbye).

    Pritzker seems to want all of the land, which implies no beach, no beach house (Nice. It only got rebuilt witihn the past few years, the parking lot, etc. I doubt an upscale hotel would want a lot of screaming kids, let alone Gatsby at "their" beach and so there goes the beach.

    Someone remarked as to costs of repair. This I was able to get from those somewhat in the know. The main building was made accessible on the main floor with a ramp, automatic doors and toilets about ten years ago. That cost about $50,000 and Art Center is "paying it off" over about 25 to 50 years (another deal that indicates why there has been no money for rehab). Otherwise they only pay $1 per year.

    Oh yes, there is also a coachhouse that got rehabbed on the outside, but the two one or two-bedroom aparmtents never got redone because City was about $100,000 short. Rather than spend that extra money they vacated both apartments that, since they were to be air-conditioned and upgraded comletely (AC, electrical, heating, plaster paint, new kitchens and baths) would have brought in at least $2,000 to $2,500 per month which might be cheap given lakeside locale. Thus, the rent alone would have paid for the upgrades witihn 5-6 years especially if the 3 garage spaces were also rented. Right now the lighthouse keeper gets one free enclosed parking space and no one else pays rent for any parking.

    As to the buliding. It needs windows which might cost about $200K. If made a public facility it needs handicapped access for upper floors (forget about that rabbit warren of a basement). An elevator would cost about $200 to $250K, as well. From what i learned the elevator at Noyes cost about $75K ten years ago, but that will go free to Piven. The exterior needs cleaning and probably vine removal. I hear  the roof may be OK.  Other interior work, if the Art Center leaves, might add more money and there is probably electrical, lighting, heating and plumbing plus ADA toilets on upper flooors, etc.  conservatively, about $1 million or so depending on what gets done and for what purpose. Worse case if truly restored (not needed) less than $2 million.

    Pritzker would need to spend lots and lots to make it a hotel because of kitchens, bedrooms, toilets all over the place, and many requirements that are required or expected at the "high-end".  But as a public building with programs there is less need to "doll it up", which is why $1.5 to 2.0 million would probably suffice.

    All in all the low-ball offer was truly a low-ball offer. I have not asked any developers, but if they could divide up the land into smaller lots much like the homes to the south or like the ill-fated developer of District 65 tried to do with main building and other stuff on same site, or even Lohr Park over along Ridge, they would make a profit immediately if they got the land for the amount now being discussed, even before they sold a single home or unit, i.e., just on the land sales.  Of course, much like the hotel, we lose the last piece of lakefront truly accessible to the public between the south end of NU and the City limits.

    Someone recalled that the original sale requirement was the building with a land lease, but that seems to have disappeared along with the audio tapes (is this really another conspiracy or are we just paranoid in Evanston?). Obviously, Pritzker does not want to invest his money into a building if he cannot own it all. That is, by the way, why the Art Center will not stay. Why fix someone else's building?

    In conclusion, we now have two buildings that might each cost $2 million to repair (although other than the roof that is underway anyhow, what is left to do at Noyes other than what Piven wants for themselves). Reasonable rents from proper uses and tenants could recover that money while, let us not forget, the public benefits from the beach, the parks, etc as well as from programs.

    Somewhere it appears, in the rush to develop anything that stands, the City fathers and mothers have forgotten, along with their staff, that they have a responsiblity above and beyond meeting the budget.

    What ever happened to a greater vision for the City? Oh, it is year 150 and we have a new approach to making Evanston livable. Let us discard all public properties and privatize the land, the buildings, etc. A good way to keep the budget down, even as tax revenues begin to rise. But once these properties are sold and gone, you can never go back.

     

     

     

     

     

    1. Let the developers buy and subdivide

      "All in all the low-ball offer was truly a low-ball offer. I have not asked any developers, but if they could divide up the land into smaller lots much like the homes to the south or like the ill-fated developer of District 65 tried to do with main building and other stuff on same site, or even Lohr Park over along Ridge, they would make a profit immediately if they got the land for the amount now being discussed, even before they sold a single home or unit, i.e., just on the land sales.  Of course, much like the hotel, we lose the last piece of lakefront truly accessible to the public between the south end of NU and the City limits."

      I say, forget the "landmark" business….please permit developers to subdivide, and build some nice new tax-generating houses or condos on the lake where the dilapidated mansion now stands…

      BUT…

      keep the beach!  With its public access!

      It would be hilarious to see people buy houses at the new Lighthouse Estates Subdivision….and then watch them act like NIMBYs every summer when they find out that people are using the neighboring beach!  They would INSIST that the beach be closed to protect the sanctity of their "residential" neighborhood.  They might even find one or two (but no more than two) sympathetic aldermen.

      1. what neighboring beach?

        If you look at the city web site and check the maps that show property subdivisions, most of Lighthouse beach is behind the Art Center as is the path down to the lake and the beach house with showers and toilets. If they sell off the property there is no beach, no bathhouse, no road leading in from Sheridan and no parking lot. You would have to start over on the undeveloped park land to the north of the parking lot, build new facilites and figure out how to get in from Sheridan.

        The NIMBY's should be all Evanstonians who use that park and the beach telling our City fathers and mothers: NIMBY.

    2. Sell it

      Around 2 million to redevelop?,  LOL!  Talk about a lowball number. 

      What is all this talk about some developer coming in and paying more millions?  Didn't the city put out an open, public, RFP on this, isn't Pritzker the only one responding?   Pritzker is actually generous in his offer, the market has proposed and offered nothing else, therefore that is market price.  Simple fact of life.

      Sell it now.

  10. Probably the best deal

    We probably won't get a better deal for the city.

    We have seen from the old Kendall College property what happens when someone wants to build.  The NIMBY fight every idea.  If they 'agreed' on an idea, as soon as someone would taken them up on it, they would revise their goal.  I bet if a developer offered to put duplicates of their houses on the Kendall lot, they would still object.

    Pritzker could always give-up [on doing anything with the property and the city] and tear the house down, the land would sit vacant for years but their taxes would be reduced—and revenue to the city would be decreased—not what the city/taxpayers need.

  11. $1.2 million won’t help the city

    The Evanston City Council is flawed in their thinking and planning.   They are trying to rid themselves of our historic Evanston Gem, the Hadley Clarke Mansion.  And for only $1.2 million (wow)?  Explain this…it makes no sense.   Much smaller, non-lake front properties around town (that need full rehab) sell for $1.2 million.

    Here's a real solution: Evanston should hire a (smart) person who solely manages the rehabilitation and future business of Hadley Clarke. Make it an event center/hotel (Weddings, Meetings, School Fund Raisers, Retreats, etc). 

    It will cost $2-3 million to rehab.   Do the math….income just  for weddings – let's say (only) 20 weekends  at $15,000 per weekend (which is cheap) would generate $300,000 per year.  With other events and rentals, there would be positive income for the city .  Over 10 years, they would easily make back their $2-3 million investment. 

    Some of you will say Evanston shouldn't be in the wedding business etc….but they also shouldn't let go of one of their greatest  historic landmark for $1.2 million  

    Selling the Mansion WON'T help the city's financial problems for $1.2 million. Please don't dwell on the rehab costs…that's backwards thinking.   Invest in your future, Evanston; don't sell your kidney.  

    You almost lost the Dawes Mansion and now this….who's running this town? 

     

    1. Why not just hire Pritzker?

      Here's a real solution: Evanston should hire a (smart) person who solely manages the rehabilitation and future business of Hadley Clarke. Make it an event center/hotel (Weddings, Meetings, School Fund Raisers, Retreats, etc).

      Why is this any different than turning it over to Pritzker to run as a B&B

      You almost lost the Dawes Mansion and now this….who's running this town?

      Dawes Mansion was, and is, a waste.  I would like to see that land being taxed instead of sitting idle.

      1. Clarke mansion deserves better: Maintain its legacy!

        And do you honestly think if Northwestern had its way and used the Dawes Mansion as a residence for its president that Evanston would have seen a cent from it? This wonderful public building is a rare gem as is the Clarke Mansion.  Up and down the North Shore historic homes that once graced Sheridan Road to the Hotel Morraine in Highland Park  right on up to the wonderful balloon frame building that graced Zion, Illinois have been razed.

        Evanston has a chance to preserve a wonderful piece of its architectural legacy as a public building.  No way it should be sold for a mere 1.2 million to a developer who is attempting to buy up Evanston.I am guessing that Mr.Pritzker would figure out a way to avoid taxes given his many good friends on the City Council.  A retreat center, a publicly owned banquet facility and hotel so local residence can have celebrations like weddings, ETHS can hold prom close to home and reunions , etc.  makes good sense to me. Maybe we should look at the land/architecture trusts of Great Britain as a model of keeping wonderful old buildings available to the public that adores and reveres them!

  12. There are no plans to take

    There are no plans to take away the beach or the park from the public.

    The layout of the parking lot will change slightly to accomodate more parking spaces and there will also be underground parking.

    Clearly all these people who believe Col. Pritzker is another "evil, rich, trust fund 'baby'" have never met him.

  13. Council as appraiser

    Aldermen say the bids are too low.  But let the market decide—and if there were restrictions on who could bid, remove those.

    Maybe but given how they drastically overestimated the value of the lands Trader Joe's will sit on and then undervalued the same when they came up with the payments back from Trader Joe's, I would say the Council should stay out of the appraisal game and have real experts do their land and other financial estimates.

    Are the deals they gave the Wine and Cheese and so many others, bad appraisals or just 'sweet heart' deals ?

    When they give money to merchants for awnings, planters, flowers, gating, moving expenses [Dave's Italian, Borders] etc., did they get or even want to get an idea of whether the business needed it, would do better business, the city could afford it [smal items to add-up and push out real needs], let alone if they [the Council] had any business making such decisions or giving away taxpayer money.

    When you give [or they take/create] honey pots that they then treat as free money since it is 'allocated for something and soshould be spent], bad decisions are not far behind—as we continuously see !

    Maybe we need to go to the extreme of having the city government make their proposals and the voters vote on that budget, capital projects, etc..  Otherwise the Santa slush funds will continue.

  14. City is blowing smoke on the condition of the Mansion

    Anyone can read the report on the Mansion on the city web site,  it states the city should spend about $430,000 to bring it up to use for the Art Center. 

    So where are the millions of dollars of repairs Wally and friends are talking about?

    I suspect there is some exterior work needing done which might run in the several hundred thousand dollars.

    The reality here is Wally is blowing smoke, what I suspect he has told the Art Center he will move them, and pay for it, we do not know that, but the Art Center has been very quiet, with the low bid, they will not even break even, its a joke.  Why has no one from the Art Center been at City Council raising questions?

    There is no new building for the Art Center to move to, without spending money.  Why should we taxpayers pay for their move?  They have paid $1 in rent for years, ( since 1969 ) it time their lease is ending and a new tenant is found for the building that will pay a real rent payment.

    What are Wally and his council members friends up to here?  Some on this web site are claiming the market is setting the price for this property. NO – check the bid documents they do not match the proposal by the developer.

    The bid process was closed, and clear manipulated by the city, we did not have an open and fair bid process for what the illegal closed door meetings discussed.

    This is another mess, that I believe few citizens will stand for selling our lake front park, regardless of price.

    1. Harley Clarke

      Public land is for the people, not for private use.  Selling off one of the few lakefront assets at a time when Evanston is gaining residents is ridiculous.  If the mansion cannot be maintained, tear it down and make a bigger park.  Public land is for the people, and not for private use.

      1. Public land

        "Public land is for the people, and not for private use."

        But if the government sells the land, it is no longer public land.

        This property used to belong to an individual, then it became property of the City.  There is no reason why the City cannot sell it to another individual and make it private again.

        Still, the idea of tearing down the mansion to make a larger park has merit.  I don't want the City to be on the hook for maintaining this mansion…so we should sell or lease the property, or tear down the mansion….but we can't let it just drain money from the City.

    2. The smokescreen surrounding

      The smokescreen surrounding this proposal to sell one of Evanston's most loved and used public properties is one of its most disturbing aspects. Why have Evanston residents been barred from hearing discussions? Why have sessions been closed? And how is it possible that tapes of multiple sessions have been erased? And if erased, why has the council not produced any kind of summary of discussions to open this conversation to Evanston's resident and taxpayers. It may not be intentional but it feels more like third world coup than democratic process in a town that prides itself on civic involvement for the public good.
      But process is not all. Of paramount importance is the central issue of whether this important property will be sold because once sold it is sold for the foreseeable future if not forever. Of course Evanston must live in the real world of budgets but selling a city treasure and the only piece of lakefront north of downtown Evanston is not an answer, particularly if we want to continue to attract new residents to our city. If the maintenance cost makes the building too expensive to save, then bring in a demolition auctioneer to make a profit for Evanston from all of the valuable architectural features, including stones, reclaimed flooring wood carvings, copper and other planters. Then keep the land as a larger park for public use. Or stay with the commitment earlier attributed to Mayor Tisdahl in an issue of the Beacon, that Evanston might sell the building, perhaps to a small bed and breakfast, but “not one inch of the land!” Well, they might need a few inches to park guest cars, etc., but certainly not 2.5 acres.  That would virtually put a wall across the lakefront.
      And the offered price of record seems to me insulting to our intelligence. I think alderman have already noted this. Nearby lakefront properties that are much smaller have recently sold for double and triple this offer. How could anyone think $1.2 would make any sense. And what is the hidden cost to Evanston of traffic, police and fire service, and heavy sewage burden from a hotel that wants to include meeting space for conferences and events as well as 57 guest rooms. I suspect that alderman have raised these and many more objections. We can't really know when meetings are closed and tapes vanish Nixon-like.
      It is true that our treasured lakefront property, adjoining as it does the nationally landmarked iconic Evanston lighthouse, was not always public. Rather, it was wise Evanston citizens and representatives who showed foresight for the future of Evanston in buying it as a lasting public asset. It is now the responsibility of our current representatives to show this same custodial care for Evanston and hold this property for the pleasure it provides present and future citizens and to send a signal to those considering moving here that Evanston will not sell its assets out from under its citizens for a quick buck.

  15. A breach of trust

    Any decision to rezone lakefront  property for a commercial use and sell it to a private operator will be a breach of trust by the Evanston City Council. 

    Years of bad decsions by that same council and its agents may have led to the financial constraints the city now has, and the subsequent willingness to allow any developer to put up anything they want in a desperate effort to increase the tax base has only eroded a lot of what is special about Evanston. 

    This proposal not only will do little to fix any finnacial issues, but will also diminish materially what is special about Evanston–the preservation and use of most of the lakefront for public use. As someone mentioned above, once this is sold, that will be lost forever. 

    The city needs to preserve something this special–the lakefront is truly unique and is a reason many of us live in Evanston.  If the building is not a landmark, and the upkeep is too much, tear it down (a one-time expense) and allow us to enjoy the lakefront even more.

    1. Tear it down

      It's nice to see that opposition to this project is not following the typical NIMBY pattern :

      "Preserve the Civic Center/Dawes House/Historic 708 Church Building at any cost! It's unique and special and part of Evanston's  History! "

      Tearing down the mansion and expanding the park is a fine idea.  It would cost less than maintaining the mansion, and open up more space on the lakefront.  I am glad that the opponents of the hotel are willing to consider this option.

       

    2. Special losses?

      Really, exactly what "special" thing was destroyed by development?  The old empty storefronts downtown, the decrepit falling down parking garage?  The crappy little strip and the ugly car dealerships that were on Chicago ave.?  The Blockbuster store?  Maybe the old Dominicks or that filthy old building that was on the corner of Church &  Maple, so very special, so full of character, probably all should have been historic landmarks.  Oh the tragedy! 

      NIMBY's always go through so much hand wringing that something special will be lost, but what exactly was lost that was in any way special?

      This old building turned into a hotel would be a fantastic use that would be a real plus for the community. Access to the lake remains, the park remains, etc.  Sell the thing. The sky will not fall and lunch may be had on the terrace. 

       

      1. Reply to “Special Losses”

        What, precise, "plusses" would be offered to the community? 

        I live across the street.  I can have lunch in my back yard or picnic on the beach. 

        The sky will fall.  I'll have more cars driving up and down my street.  My property value will decrease.  The beach will become more crowded.  

        I see zero benefit to the community.

        Have lunch on the terrace of the Botanic Gardens.  Leave this neighborhood residential.

         

         

        1. Leave which neighborhood residential?

          "Leave this neighborhood residential."

             It is not currently residential.  Nobody's been living in that mansion for decades.   The lighthouse was building for navigation/defense reasons, so even the 'park' area was not always a 'park'.  Directly to the south we have a water treatment plant and the dreaded Northwestern University.  Nothing about the land in question is currently 'residential', or has been for decades.

          Thank you, however, for demonstrating the REAL agenda of the hotel opponents.  You  aren't really concerned about keeping the park for all Evanston residents… you just want to keep people out of "your" neighborhood.   You want to have a picnic on the beach…but you don't want the beach to become more crowded.

          Since you only care about yourself (which is fine), let me say this:  I don't care about your property value or if there are more cars on your street.  I would like to get more tax revenue from the hotel, and have a nice restaurant on the lakefront  – my lakefront, which I consider to be for my personal enjoyment only.  I hope that it is open really late, and after I'm done eating I'll rev up my engine and honk my horn a few times as I drive past your house.

        2. Let’s tax the NIMBYs

          More ridiculous the sky is falling nonsense.  Your property values will not decrease, they may actually increase.  As for your selfish personal interest, they are of no value in this discussion.  Cars drive up and down anyway, etc etc.  move if you don't like it.

          As for the benefits to the city, how about over a million plus $ out of the box, somebody else paying for renovations and retention of the building, not the taxpayer paying out millions for your selfish NIMBY benefit.  

          How about the millions of dollars in revenue to the City over time from various taxes being collected?  How about the jobs that will be created, many of which will go directly to Evanston residents?   The whole time both the park and the beach remain open to the public, and there will be a place for the residents of this City to enjoy a nice lunch or dinner on a patio overlooking the lakefront.  Something nobody in this community can currently do will now be available. 

          The NIMBYS must sign a special taxing assessment to their homes with no sunset clauses that mandates they and they alone pay all expenses for the various demands they make, pay the city the cash upfront that will be lost, reimburse annually the forgone tax revenues, cover all future maintenance, plus pay into a job fund for all the lost jobs, and keep the park and beach open to the public.                                                                                                                                                             

          1. Great idea: NIMBYs pay their “Fair Share”

            "The NIMBYS must sign a special taxing assessment to their homes with no sunset clauses that mandates they and they alone pay all expenses for the various demands they make, pay the city the cash upfront that will be lost, reimburse annually the forgone tax revenues, cover all future maintenance, plus pay into a job fund for all the lost jobs, and keep the park and beach open to the public"

            That is really the best idea I've ever seen on Evanston Now.  Let's make the NIMBYs pay their  "Fair Share"  (oh, the irony!).  

          2. This is great idea for Kendall College land

             If the NIMBY owners around the old Kendall land [and many more areas] want to obstruct sale/construction, they should vote themselves [or since the Council makes so many ad hoc decisions have them] make this a special district with taxes based on the estimated time and lost revenue [property tax], sale value of homes outside the NIMBY area but effected by their actions.

            Like wise any area that wants to declare itself a 'historic district' or block or other such nonsense, should have to vote itself a tax to offset the reduced home/sale value this causes and for the lost Property Tax.  This should apply retroactively to those who pushed the historic designation on the property on Sherman/Orrington but not to hurt all the homeowners who did not want such a designation but were hurt by it, tax only those who pushed, sign petitions or [if there was even] a vote.

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