Evanston City Council approves Harley Clarke report

Rebecca Savransky, Design Editor

A report on the Harley Clarke Mansion presented to aldermen Monday revealed no consensus within the community on which option for the mansion’s future would be best.

Aldermen approved the report following more than an hour of public comment about the mansion’s fate.

In the report, the Harley Clarke Citizens’ Committee, which comprises five Evanston residents and two city officials, evaluated five options for the mansion:

  • retaining and renovating the building for public use
  • demolishing the building and redeveloping the site as park land
  • selling or leasing the building so it could be renovated for commercial use
  • selling the building and land to have it redeveloped under residential zoning
  • selling or gifting the building to an organization that would renovate and preserve it for public cultural or educational use

With all options, the adjacent beach and access to the beach would remain public.

Steve Hagerty, the committee chair, presented the findings during the council meeting Monday.

“People care about Evanston,” he said during the meeting. “Everyone’s intentions are good, but there are a diversity of opinions and diversity of perspectives on this mansion and exactly what should be done.”

Over the past few months, residents provided opinions to the committee through emails, public comment, a public workshop and an online survey. After analyzing public opinion, the committee said in its report it found “no consensus on what to do with the Mansion.”

The committee concluded that aldermen need to decide what values are most important to them when choosing what to do with the mansion.

Following the presentation, Ald. Jane Grover (7th) said the building should be maintained.

“The building is worth preserving and renovating,” she said. “I’m willing to consider compromises to get it done.”

Several Evanston residents said during the meeting that the mansion needed to be restored rather than demolished. Even though a large renovation would be necessary, residents said it’s important to save the historic building.

Others advocated for using the area as a public park or wildlife space, rather than renovating the building.

Aldermen will use the committee’s report to help decide the property’s fate. The future of the Harley Clarke Mansion will be discussed again at a September council meeting.

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Twitter: @beccasavransky