The Daily Northwestern

Aldermen vote to let art center stay in Harley Clarke Mansion until May

Norah Diedrich tells the Human Services Committee about the Evanston Art Center's moving requests. The subcommittee voted Monday to recommend to City Council that the art center's lease of the Harley Clarke Mansion should be extended.

Stephanie Kelly/The Daily Northwestern

Norah Diedrich tells the Human Services Committee about the Evanston Art Center's moving requests. The subcommittee voted Monday to recommend to City Council that the art center's lease of the Harley Clarke Mansion should be extended.

Stephanie Kelly, Assistant City Editor

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Aldermen voted Monday to recommend to City Council extending the Evanston Art Center’s lease of the Harley Clarke Mansion, allowing it to stay an extra four months until the end of May 2015.

In its recommendation to council, the Human Services Committee also approved the art center’s requests for the city to provide assistance moving.

Norah Diedrich, the center’s executive director, told committee members that staff needed more time to move out of the mansion, 2603 Sheridan Road, because renovations to the center’s new location were not yet complete.

“(Moving the date) is absolutely critical for the life of this organization,” Diedrich said before committee members voted. “We don’t want to disappoint our students or the people we’ve already employed.”

City officials voted in February to terminate the art center’s lease of the mansion and gave the center until Jan. 31, 2015 to vacate the building. The center finalized its $2 million purchase on Nov. 3 of a new location at 1717 Central St., drawing from a $1.5 million bank loan and a $500,000 private donation. In its campaign for the relocation, the center has raised about $1.9 million as of Nov. 11.

Diedrich said Monday that construction has already begun on the building for the center’s new location.

The city will provide the center with a $5,000 grant to help with the cost of professional movers and trash and recycling containers for waste generated at the mansion during the move. Some aldermen, including Ald. Delores Holmes (5th), said they thought this was a fair agreement because the city forced the center to move in the first place.

To give aldermen more time to think about the decision, the committee held off voting on the center’s request to waive around $48,000 in fees related to the move, such as those for the building permit, fire alarms and sprinklers, the water line tap and fire hydrants.

Some aldermen said by voting to grant the waiver, City Council would be setting a precedent for nonprofit organizations who ask the city for financial assistance in the future.

Some committee members suggested that parameters should be created for these kinds of situations to ensure organizations are treated equally.

Ald. Judy Fiske (1st), said she sees the issue with the art center as different from other potential situations with non-profits though, because the city told the art center to move.

The committee also recommended that city manager Wally Bobkiewicz ask the Illinois Department of Natural Resources for an update on its intent to purchase and lease the mansion. City Council approved in September for staff to move forward with negotiations with the state agency, which intends to use the lakefront location to educate residents and visitors about the Illinois coast and the Great Lakes.

With the election of Bruce Rauner as the next Illinois governor, the IDNR staff with whom the city has been working will be leaving in January to make room for Rauner’s administration, Bobkiewicz said in a memo to committee members. The new officials and the likely change in the IDNR’s funding priorities may put the transaction between the agency and the city in jeopardy, Bobkiewicz said.

Email: stephaniekelly2017@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @StephanieKellyM

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