The Daily Northwestern

Evanston City Council discusses possible Harley Clarke deconstruction

Community members voice concerns over the undetermined fate of the Harley Clarke Mansion at the meeting of the Human Services Committee on Monday evening. The location will be vacant in June after the current resident, Evanston Art Center, relocates.

Ben Schaefer/The Daily Northwestern

Community members voice concerns over the undetermined fate of the Harley Clarke Mansion at the meeting of the Human Services Committee on Monday evening. The location will be vacant in June after the current resident, Evanston Art Center, relocates.

Ben Schaefer, Assistant City Editor

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The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has declined a proposal to purchase the historic Harley Clarke Mansion and lease the land it rests on.

In a letter sent to Evanston city manager Wally Bobkiewicz, which Bobkiewicz read at Monday’s Human Services Committee meeting, the IDNR officials said they declined the proposal because of the fundraising obstacle posed by not owning the land on which the mansion sits and the administrative changes during the impending transition of power to governor-elect Bruce Rauner.

The decision comes after more than three years of debate and discussion about how to find a new tenant for the building, 2603 Sheridan Rd., and throws the mansion’s future further into question. The mansion will become vacant in June when the current resident, the Evanston Art Center, finishes moving to its new Central Street location.

The looming vacancy sparked the conversation about what the future of the location will be, if there will be one at all.

“It would be very difficult for Evanston to find another entity that would agree to the terms that they would invest $6 million into the building but not purchase the land underneath it,” Bobkiewicz said. “The most radical option is the deconstruction of the building.”

Community members implored the council to explore alternatives, ranging from renewed discussions with the Rauner administration to the possibility of physically relocating the building.

Alds. Judy Fiske (1st) and Jane Grover (7th) discussed the possibility of opening up a dialogue with the Rauner administration to reevaluate the IDNR’s ability to fund renovations of the property.

“I’m very disappointed,” Grover said, “but it’s not a door closing, maybe we can try to open it a bit wider.”

Alds. Mark Tendam (6th) and Coleen Burrus (9th) were less optimistic that the incoming Republican governor would make an effort to salvage the project.

“I can’t imagine the Rauner administration, which is fiscally conservative, would plop down a bunch of money on a building that they don’t own to house a few people to do some work there,” Burrus said. “I don’t see that happening.”

Burrus proposed putting the possibility of selling the land up for a referendum vote.

“If you’re afraid that the citizens will be up in arms about selling part of the property, put it up for referendum so we actually know,” Burrus said. “Put it out there for referendum: Do we knock it down or do we save it?”

The committee voted to move the discussion of the mansion’s future to the full council.

Email: benjaminschaefer2017@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @BSchaefer27


Previous stories on this topic:

    Aldermen vote to let art center stay in Harley Clarke Mansion until May
    Council approves negotiations for Harley Clarke Mansion


 

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