Evanston City Council creates Harley Clarke advisory group


Sean Su/Daily Senior Staffer

Evanston police Sgt. Jodie Hart is sworn in Monday evening. Hart received a promotion along with two of his colleagues.

Ben Schaefer, Assistant City Editor

City Council unanimously voted to create a citizens group to report on alternatives to demolishing the Harley Clarke Mansion and provide a recommendation in May.

The group will be composed of seven members, including two members each from the Preservation Commission and the Park and Recreation Board with three members selected at large by the mayor.

“We hope you’ll take this opportunity to explore a wide range of uses for the property and tap into the city and community expertise that’s out there surrounding the issue,” said Diane Williams, incoming chair of the Evanston Preservation Commission.

Several Evanston residents spoke at the meeting about the imperative for finding a solution for the mansion.

“The mansion is a presence in this community overlooking the water,” Evanston resident Diane Korling said during a period for citizen comment. “It’s worth saving for the symbolism of a place on the water for everybody to use but certainly for educational purposes.”

Last week, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources formally declined a proposal to purchase the mansion and lease the land it rests on. The historical building, 2603 Sheridan Road, will become vacant in June when the Evanston Art Center finishes its move to its new location on Central Street.

Aldermen discussed plans for the building Monday evening.

The IDNR backed out due to concerns over what leasing, and not owning, the land would mean for its ability to fund renovations as well as the incoming administration of Gov. Bruce Rauner, who was sworn in Monday.

“I think we should at least let his administration get its feet on the ground,” Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd) said. “Then we can go back and see if there is some support for the IDNR program. Stranger things have happened.”

Ald. Delores Holmes (5th), however, expressed doubt about the likelihood of support from the new administration, citing the governor’s announcement to freeze all non-essential spending, his first decision in office.

Ald. Coleen Burrus (9th) outlined parameters under which any committee created should work. Those included a clear decision on whether the property will be sold, if the building will be brought up to code and the way that any recommendation would be financed.

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl emphasized the importance of a deadline for the committee’s decision.

“Once the building is unoccupied, that’s a different conversation than the one we’re having with the art center there,” she said.

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