On Wednesday, April 15, the Harley Clarke Citizens Committee held its fourth public meeting. The committee was formed and directed by the Evanston City Council to explore possible uses for the Harley Clarke mansion and surrounding grounds, located on the lakefront at 2603 Sheridan Road.
SEA Board member Ted Glasoe attended the meeting and spoke on behalf of the Southeast Evanston Association, publicly endorsing a resolution of the Central Street Neighbors Association. Passed on April 1, the resolution advocates for the mansion to be kept in the public domain, supports continued public use and conservation as recommended in the Evanston Lakefront Master Plan of 2008, and opposes any commercial or private development of the property.
Over the last four meetings, the Harley Clarke committee has explored a number of possibilities for the building and grounds, including selling it, demolishing the mansion, subdividing the land for residential lots, and forming a park district to take over the maintenance of the building and grounds.
Another idea, which was discussed during Wednesday’s meeting, is to keep the property as a city building and find another use for it, perhaps as an education or community center, or as a destination for weddings and other revenue-generating events. Committee members floated ideas on how to maintain the building, such as finding a benefactor organization that would agree to maintain the mansion but not be permitted to sell or lease it.
The two-hour meeting was attended by about 35 community members, with almost half speaking during a citizen comment session. All advocated for keeping the mansion in the public domain and preserving the building. Addressing concerns about projected costs for repairing and maintaining the mansion, several professional restorers and contractors who spoke stated they thought the costs would be much less than the city’s estimates.
The Harley Clarke committee will present its recommendations to the City Council on June 8. t. The council will make the final decision on the future of the mansion and grounds.
“The Harley Clark mansion and the grounds -- including the Jens Jensen garden -- are a rare and precious asset for Evanston,” Glasoe said. “SEA, as well as most who attended the meeting, feels it is imperative to preserve this property as a public lakefront space for residents to enjoy for generations to come,” Glasoe said.
The Harley Clarke Citizens Committee will hold its next meeting on April 29. In the meantime, interested citizens may email their thoughts and ideas for the committee’s consideration to firstname.lastname@example.org.