Aldermen push mansion decision to 2020

The Harley Clarke mansion.

Evanston aldermen Monday night voted to seek a wide range of proposals for a new use for the lakefront Harley Clarke mansion and chose a deadline of early next year for reviewing whatever plans are submitted.

The aldermen rejected a proposal from Mayor Steve Hagerty to leave the request for proposals open for 18 months as too long, rejected six months as too short and settled on the nine month schedule after Alderman Tom Suffredin, 6th Ward, said, "You can make a person in nine months."

Aldermen also noted the nine-month deadline would postpone any decision until after the Council has adopted a new budget for next year.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said previous requests for new uses for the mansion have been too limiting and that the city should consider separate proposals for the coach house and the mansion if respondents want to offer them.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said, "We've all agreed that we're not spending any more city money on this." But there was less agreement on just how wide a range of proposals the city should consider accepting.

Alderman Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward, said any proposal needed to include "some kind of community use, whether non-profit or for-profit."

But Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said the request shouldn't be limited to any particular use and that the city should even consider selling it as a single-family home.

Although Wilson said the RFP should call for continued city ownershp of the building, although possibly with a very long-term lease, Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said any potential new user should have the financial capacity to purchase the building and rehab it immediately.

Rainey suggested commercial uses could provide the desired public access. But Fiske said it would be considered spot zoning to permit a commercial use.

Reflecting continuing disagreement among the aldermen about how wide a range of options to consider for the mansion, the motion from Wilson to seek proposals from for profit and not-for-profit entities for future uses of the mansion. coach house or both, with a preference for only a lease agreement but the option to sell the building but not the underlying land was approved on only a 5-4 vote.

Aldermen Fiske, Peter Braithwaite, Robin Rue Simmons and Rainey voted no.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said staff would return to the council's April 15 meeting with draft language for the request for proposals.

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