Harley Clarke Mansion committee holds first meeting


Marissa Page/The Daily Northwestern

Members of the Harley Clarke Citizens Committee discuss a list of criteria they compiled at the meeting. The committee met to address ways to approach the future of the Harley Clarke Mansion.

Marissa Page, Reporter

The Harley Clarke Citizens Committee, assembled by Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl to address the future of the oft-debated Harley Clarke Mansion, met for the first time Thursday night to discuss its course of action.

Much of the meeting was spent discussing the potential structure of the committee. Members agreed that they should keep an open mind and focus on devising several possible plans for the Harley Clarke property.

“The committee really is a fact-finding operation,” Ald. Jane Grover (7th) said. “It’s a gathering of resources and information.”

The mansion, built in 1927, is located at 2603 Sheridan Road next to the historic Grosse Point Lighthouse. The building served as home to the Evanston Art Center since the late 1960s. The center will move into a new space by the end of May.

In recent years the building has required greater upkeep than either it or the center was able to fund, according to the city. Since 2011, City Council has tried to devise other uses for the space. Most aldermen supported selling the building but felt strongly about Evanston continuing to own the land. Potential arrangements fell through, however, keeping the mansion’s future in question.

Most recently, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources declined in January to purchase the mansion and lease the land it rests on.

Last month the council agreed a committee should be formed to further address plans for the mansion.

Six of the seven committee members attended the meeting Thursday, along with city employees Mark Muenzer, the director of community and economic development, and Cindy Plante, the economic development specialist.

“The idea should be that we don’t limit ourselves and don’t set one single goal,” committee member Garry Shumaker said. “The end product should be to provide City Council with several options. A good, better, best solution model.”

Committee member Linda Damashek, an activist involved with the Evanston Parks and Lakefront Alliance, said the committee should consider public opinion as well as prior research while approaching the mansion’s future.

“There’s prior knowledge and prior documents we should be tapping into, and I think it’s important we be respectful of what’s out there,” Damashek said.

Committee members agreed their primary goal is to maintain public access to the beach, and many said ​they wanted to preserve the building as well.

“Evanston feels homier to me than my hometown,” said committee member Dawn Davis-Zeinemann, an Evanston resident of nine years. “This mansion means everything to me because it was one of the first places I visited after I moved to Evanston”

The next committee meeting is tentatively set for 7 p.m. Feb. 26 at the Morton Civic Center.

This story was updated for clarity at 12:40 p.m. on Friday.

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Previous stories on this topic:

    Evanston City Council creates Harley Clarke advisory group
    Evanston City Council discusses possible Harley Clarke deconstruction
    Aldermen vote to let art center stay in Harley Clarke Mansion until May