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The proposed deal to have a state agency take over the city-owned Harley Clarke mansion on Evanston’s lakefront may hinge on whether new governor Bruce Rauner thinks it’s a good deal.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz will tell aldermen at Monday’s Human Services Committee meeting that negotiations with the state Department of Natural Resources to have its Coastal Management Program move into the mansion have essentially stalled.

Top IDNR officials the city has been negotiating with will be leaving the agency when Rauner takes over as governor in January.

And the state, Bobkiewicz says, has been insisting on buying the building and the land — rather than signing a long-term lease, as city officials would prefer. The state says it needs to own the property to qualify for grants needed to rehab it, but aldermen don’t want to lose control over the long-term future of the site.

Given those factors, “I question the ability of this transaction” to move forward, Bokiewicz says in a memo to aldermen.

He wants aldermen to tell him to seek a written response from the state about its intentions that he could present to them in January.

Meanwhile, Bobkiewicz plans to ask the aldermen to approve a request from the mansion’s current tenant, the Evanston Arts Center, to extend its lease from Jan. 31 to May 31, to give the center time to finish renovation work at the new site it has purchased at 1717 Central St.

He’ll also ask them to approve waivers of building permit and other city fees associated with the new location and provide trash containers for the center’s move out of the mansion as well as a $5,000 grant to assist with the cost of hiring professional movers.

Related stories

Arts group seeks extra months at mansion (11/12/14)

Art center buys new home (11/5/14)

Harley Clarke mansion deal faces delay (10/26/14)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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14 Comments

  1. It matters what the people of Evanston want!

    The People of Evanston told the City Council quite clearly they do not want a private use for the property such as the Hotel –  so if the state backs away from the deal – it will not justify selling our park land for a Hotel.

    The major of those who speak in favor of such deals, and come to council and praise public officials have some interest with the city – if is becoming increasing clear – the city runs and operates not in the interest of the public but to create a pattern of phony deals that they claim are "Economic Development" but are really just plain give aways of our tax dollars.

    While I do believe there are some people of intregrity that support the idea of a Hotel, here the majority envolved have other motives beyond the public good. I would like to believe Ms. Pritzker that she will not pursue this again- and that it is over.

    It is not a good deal, for the city – economical, since the return is small if real any, does not justify privatizing a major public park.

    A few of those who talk about the so called economics of the Hotel, have not been willing to address the real issues with the large amount of misuse of our tax dollars in numerous activities of the city council wasting our money- from Howard Street, to the Water Utility ( with 44% water bill increases in five years ), and numerous questionable missteps by Wally and staff.  When all this mess is corrected then we can talk about selling off our parks, if we really still have a need for more funds!

    1. Selling off a public park?
      On the subject of the (now dead) Pritzker proposal for a hotel, Junad wrote:

      “It is not a good deal, for the city – economical, since the return is small if real any, does not justify privatizing a major public park.”

      Junad, the Pritzker proposal was to take over the old building (Harley Clarke), not the adjacent park..so all of this talk about ‘privatizing a major public park’ is nonsense.

      It was not ‘the people of Evanston’ who flooded the Council meeting in opposition to the plan, but a well-organized group of NIMBYs from the North and East parts of town. The majority of residents were indifferent.

      I am puzzled, Junad, by why you are so strongly against the idea of the City being a landlord on Howard ( where Wally and Ann Rainey have made progress in revitalizing a neighborhood by having the City purchase buildings and act as a developer), but you seem to want the City to hang on to this former private residence on the lakefront. I think that the City at least has a chance of making a profit on the Peckish Pig or Ward Eight, but I don’t see how the Harley Clarke house can ever be profitable for the City.

      1. Yes the park was going to be sold

        You need to go look at the Twani proposal – your statement about taking over the building is completely wrong – the proposal wanted 2-1/2 arces of parkland – from sheridan rd to the dunes – from lighthouses property to the south, to the north edge of the current parking lot. The building was included, 

        Citizens and Council members who keep on talking about this so called economic development – are in dream world – all the businesses on Howard have been highly subsidize by the city, so even if they are still in businesses – there is no metric to prove they are even making a profit.  You comment on how Harley Clarke is ever going to be profitable – miss the fact it is a public park- by the way is the Civic Center profitable? ( all thats going on there is they are taxing us to keep in business)

        1. Bulldoze the building?

          "Bulldoze the building and enlarge the park."

            Not a bad idea  ( although I believe the question was directed at Junad, since he complains about the City owning property on Howard, and then he complains when the City tries to sell property closer to his house )

           The problem is that bulldozing the "historic" Harley Clarke home would have brought the NIMBY brigade out in full force.  "Save the Mansion",  and all that.  

          The idea of an enlarged park would have prompted all sorts of NIMBY fits:

               Won't a larger park attract more people?  We don't want more people in OUR neighborhood.

              There's not enough parking already.  We don't want a larger park. ( and we DON'T want more parking spaces either, since that will just bring more cars to our neighborhood, and they will run over our children)

            Someone would claim that the mansion could EASILY be refurbished for a mere $15,000  and turned into a community center/museum/office  while protecting the neighborhood.

            And naturally, the NIMBYs would blame Northwestern:   "Why are we bulldozing a historic Evanston building?  …Northwestern has a $7 trillion endowment, they should fix it up and give it to Evanston ( and pay taxes on it, too)."

    2. Wrong on the mansion

      Junad,

      You are all wrong on the mansion.

      The real park is the beach and the lighthouse. Pritzker was not buying that property but he was providing greater access buy increasing the parking for Evanston citizens.

      He was also going to repair the dump and fire trap being left by the BAD tenant who took advantage of Evanston for many years, the Arts Center.

      In addition to the purchase price, the tax revenue from the hotel would provide over a half of a million dollars to the city each and every year.

      The current attempt to make a deal with the state, if successful, would be paid for by you and every other taxpayer in the state. The state has no money of its own, even though the head of the IDNR claimed that they had millions of dollars to spend. Only a fool would believe the IDNR knowing the condition of state finance. Also the state does not pay property taxes so there would be no money coming in to relieve the over-taxed citizens of Evanston.

      The current score:

      • Pritzker Deal – $ 500,000 / Year
      • IDNR Deal    – $ 0.00 / Year or less
      • Art Center Deal – about minus $ 25,000 / year

      One other option is to get the 400 squeaky wheels, who crowded the civic center and scared the pants off the mayor and council into voting the Pritzker deal down, to kick in 4 – 5 million dollars to fix the mansion. I am pretty sure they can do it, after all, the dead beat Arts Center was albe to raise 1.5 – 2 million to buy another building in very short order.

       

      Junad,

      You are dead wrong on the mansion but I do agree with on other areas. Something does smell with the water rates, patiogate, and the library. There appears to be a lack of transparency in these areas.

      Rumors of what was being done with the water income has been going on for years but you have been the only one challenging the city. But the city appears to stonewall you when you request the details, Maybe there is no details at city hall and just a general overview.

      Now on patiogate, Wally promised he would make a details public on all aspects, but he hasn't. to my knowlwdge. The word is the the PIG paid the bill of $18,000 plus but no details. IT is hard to trust Wally if he doesn't keep his promises to Evanston people.

      The library, our accountable taxing body, continues to spend money for events beyond their mission of a library while claiming that they do not have enough to be a good library. They raised taxes last year by about 40 % and hired a hand full of people including a professional fund raiser. I have not seen any fund raising except the annual book sale that has been going on long before the new hires showed up. How many towns the size of evanston have 2 branch libraries. How many libraries claim to be "the education center" of their respective city. Is it only Evanston's library, I thought so. Sounds like city hall, D202, and D65 should contributed $ 50,000 each to the library instead of the Cradle to Grave organization. This year the library wants to raise taxes by 11 % while the city has asked staff to make cuts of 3 %. The library plans to make 5 parttime positions fulltime and hire another 3 fulltime positions, at the same time that their technology should allow the to cut a couple of positions. there is something going on there that the mayor should be investigating or the library should become transparent and allow the public to see the details of their planned and past spending. The library dollar numbers may be small in comparison to other taxing bodies but they should be giving reasons that they need to raise taxes, and not the excuses they pout.

      1. Harley Clark Mansion

        The intent of the Pritzker proposal was to help the City of Evanston renovate a crumbling building in a way that would make the project financially feasible.  The point most are missing is the Jennifer Pritzker is extremely wealthy and this project and the reveune stream that it would provide would not make a dent in her finances but it was not going to be a donation – it was to help Evanston and produce a viable business (hotel).  Jennifer just opened her first B&B which is stunning and we could have had a jewel on the Lakefront but no, now it will be in limbo for……a long time.  If you read the report about the state of the building, just to bring it up to code and a viable facility will cost millions of dollars.  The hotel would have increased parking and access to the beach if you bother to read the proposal.  So, no one wants their taxes raised and the city does not have a dime to fix the mansion on their own so…your best chance to make something out of it from someone committed to the city with the financial means has now been shunned.  Those that protested this proposal, you now have an uninhabitable ruin at your feet, your chance to have the building become something special has passed you by.  Now that you won your fight with your lawn signs, sign up and take turns policing a soon to be empty building it your neighborhood.  Want to find out what it like to live in Detroit?  You will soon find out!

        1. Let’s rename Evanston, Pritzkerville
          Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

          It’s silly season when you write that Pritzker’s interest in buying the city’s ONLY lakefront mansion would be a “donation.” And your Detroit comparison is laughable.

          Did you notice that the report containing the cost of bringing the building up to code came out ONLY around the time the Art Center’s one dollar a year lease contract was about to expire? How convenient. All those decades the Arts Center operated and SERVED THE PUBLIC not a peep from city building code inspectors or the City Council.

          The same tactic was applied to the Evanston History Center at the Dawes mansion. The long term contract was about to expire and Northwestern suddenly wanted it and just like that a city report came out claiming the Dawes mansion would need updates, costing millions. The History Center threatened to sue and won the battle. And funny thing, it didn’t need to spend millions to update the building.

          The Harley Clarke mansion is prime real estate and someone would be willing to lease it. It’s time to go out for more bids. I think an upscale restaurant/dining hall is the perfect fit.

          Did you even study Pritzker’s proposal? The hotel addition would consume the existing parking lot and the existing park would be converted into parking space. So, no additional parking would be added for the public because the proposed hotel underground parking would be for hotel guests. The Lighthouse Beach is the best one in Evanston and Pritzker’s proposals would totally change its appeal and value to Evanston residents.

          Pritzker low balled the Council for this property and the minutes of the closed door meetings with city officials and Pritzker were conveniently lost after a local media outlet filed a freedom of information act request. This was around the time Pritzker had pending zoning requests and gave a campaign donation to 6th Ward Alderman Mark Tendam after he won the election.

          I suspect folks behind the scene with power and influence really really want to own that property. If the city can donate and loan millions to businesses for bars, grocery stores, restaurants, patios and so forth it can work out a deal with a business to lease and operate in the mansion.

          1. Warming Shack

            Unless Governor Rauner has less than half a brain (which is twice that of Quinn), the state deal is finished. That will be a good deal for Evanston.

            I totally disagree with you on the Pritzker deal. It was a very good deal and the purchase price could have increased by as much as 2M. Also, the parking would have been underground with beach and lighthouse parking would have increased by about 25 %. I do not need to mention the 500k + that would go to the city every year.

            I doubt that there is a waiting line to rent the masion and pay 4 – 5 million to restore it to a habital state, I believe that the last answer is for the 400 squeaky wheels who got the council to kill the Pritzker deal, need to own up and raise the 4 – 5 million  to bring the mansion up to code. The city cound then have a third party lease it out for weddings, birthday parties, ETC…

            If they can't raise enough money, maybe t can raise enough to raise the mansion and replace it with a warming house and ice rink for the winter and a roller rink with a basketball court for the summer.

            The rental fees should pay for mansion and taxpayers will pay for maintaining the rest.

          2. Repair estimates doubted

            Question — How much do you think the mansion alone is worth, excluding the land? 

            Whatever number you come up with do you really think the repair costs are in the $4-5 million range? Really?

            Remember, the mansion housed the Art Center with thousands of customers for decades. And, the Arts Center is operating in the mansion right now.

            How much did the city say the Dawes Mansion needed for repairs? How much was actually done after Northwestern gave up their fight to obtain the mansion from the History Center? 

             

          3. Mansion was appraised

            The Mansion and the land under it were appraised by the city at $3 million – there was never an apprails for the remaining two arces.  A house to the north on the lake is selling for $4 million.

            Given this would be commerical property – I would suspect its value should be as high as $10 million.

            At that price would Twani have wanted it?  We do not know –  they only offer $1.2 million. If we look at the remaining $8,8 million – would this have made up for Twani's net of $500,000 in economic benefits – I think not.

            But the vast majority of of citizens did not want this deal – period.  they did not want to sell the property but keep it as Parkland.

          4. Question — How much do you

            Question — How much do you think the mansion alone is worth, excluding the land?

            150k -300k on another average lot. On the current lot 2,150k – 2,300k.

            Whatever number you come up with do you really think the repair costs are in the $4-5 million range? Really?

            750k to correct code violations. 1,000k to add modern conveniecies. 1,500k – 2,500k fix, restoration, and unknowns.

            Remember, the mansion housed the Art Center with thousands of customers for decades. And, the Arts Center is operating in the mansion right now.

            And the city would not have allowed it, if a private citizen owned and operated a business there. The art center was a bad tenant for many years and did nothing to maintain the mansion. The mansion would not be in such poor condition, if the art center had done a little bit each year , as their lease required. The art center is not totally to blame. The city looked away and did nothing to hold their feet to the fire. I guess the city was a poor landlord.

            How much did the city say the Dawes Mansion needed for repairs? How much was actually done after Northwestern gave up their fight to obtain the mansion from the History Center?

            I really don't know that much about the Dawes mansion. 

            Our mansion is kind of a mini-mansion. I have seen some web sites that reviewed a number of very large mansion that cost millions of dollars to build 75 – 150 years ago that are now being offered for sale for as little as 100k. the thing that they have in common is they all need millions in repair and restoration. One was under repair for 7 years and total added up to about 7 million with another 7 to 10 million before it could be somebody's home.

            I don't know what the outcome should be but I do know that the real park is the great beach and the lighthouse. I also know that it would be a huge mistake to sell or lease the mansion to the state, especially in this state.

             

        2. Just finished wiping up…

          "Those that protested this proposal, you now have an uninhabitable ruin at your feet, your chance to have the building become something special has passed you by. Now that you won your fight with your lawn signs, sign up and take turns policing a soon to be empty building it your neighborhood. Want to find out what it like to live in Detroit? You will soon find out!" Did anyone else, after reading the above nonsense, spit coffee on your computer screen?

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