As aldermen Monday night approved seeking a new request for proposals for a use that could fund renovation of the lakefront Harley Clarke mansion, an alderman raised doubts about whether there's enough donor money to go around to tackle all the worthy projects in the city.
Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said the former Noyes School at 927 Noyes St. in her ward, which now houses the city's Cultural Arts Center, needs $5 million in capital improvements that the city itself can't afford.
That's also a number that has been widely mentioned as the potential cost of renovating the Harley Clarke mansion.
The Harley Clarke mansion.
And, Fiske suggested, it's a not unreasonable guess for what it might take to restore the former Foster School at 2010 Dewey Ave. in the 5th Ward, which now houses Family Focus and other social service agencies.
The Family Focus Center.
Family Focus officials say they can no longer carry the cost of operating the building and are seeking to sell it to a new entity and potentially become a tenant in the building instead.
A group of neighbors seeking to fund the purchase have planned a march through the neighborhood for supporters at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Fiske said Harley Clarke supporters have placed "a lot of focus on vision, and not much on the amount of money needed to make it happen."
Fiske said she's looking forward to when revenue is seriously discussed by Harley Clarke advocates at their meetings, but it hasn't happened yet.
Supporters of the new Robert Crown Center have raised $12.4 million toward an ultimate goal of $15 million in private donations for that project.
That could offer hope that these three other projects could also gain the support they need, or it could suggest that local donors are already largely tapped out.
In any case, the aldermen voted to go ahead with plans to issue the RFP, after stripping out language suggesting they'd be open to selling the buildings and providing a long-term lease on the ground beneath them.
Fiske was joined by Aldermen Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, and Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, and voting against stripping the sale option from the RFP.
A proposal by Alderman Tom Suffredin, 6th Ward, to consider a sale, but only to a not-for-profit or a governmental agency, was also rejected.
The aldermen voted to beef up language in the RFP calling for the new lessee to provide significant public use of the buildings in whatever plans they submit.
The city has been seeking a solution to the question of what to do with the lakefront mansion for the better part of a decade and has previously considered and then rejected options to sell the building, lease it to a not-for-profit and demolish it.