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June 25, 2018

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Posted: Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Guestbook entry by: Craig McClure

As an over-burdened property tax payer in Evanston, I am glad to see the city council taking steps toward considering the demolition of the Harley Clarke mansion.

In economics, we learn that most decisions in life are “OR” choices. The economics are about “guns OR butter” not “guns AND butter”. Many in Evanston don’t think the laws of economics apply. And while those folks are busy thinking of all kinds of new ways for the city to spend money, many people that I’ve come to know through living here have either quietly sold and moved out in order to escape the high taxes, or are contemplating doing so.

Evanston can’t do it all. The city is already taking on an enormous financial responsibility with the rebuild of the Robert Crown Center. And the city still has enormous pension liability issues. The list goes on and on of where the city has financial obligations, and we don’t need to add Harley Clarke to that list.

If the ELHG had been able to take full responsibility for the mansion – and that means everything – renovation, maintenance, utilities, and the cost of insuring it, then leasing the mansion to them might have been worth considering. But as it is, ELHG has been unable to raise the necessary funds, and wanted the city to indemnify it in the event of a major loss to the structure.

It's time for the city to move on from this issue.

Posted: Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Guestbook entry by: Cheryl Muno

Several years ago, Jennifer Pritzker's company, Taiwani Enterprises, offered us $1.2 million for the mansion and 2.5 acres of surrounding parkland. Taiwani proposed turning the mansion into a 57-room boutique hotel and adding underground parking all while maintaining access to nearby Lighthouse Beach. How much sales tax revenue would have already been generated by this property if the transaction had been successful? Further, Evanston residents would be dining in the on-site restaurant to views of our lovely lake. (Before all of you "bring on the greenspace" cheerers begin your cheer, not everyone is physically fit enough to traverse greenspace, but most people are able to get into a restaurant for a brief spate of enjoyment.) Now, the option is to have the building torn down by a local group willing to carry the cost. At a time when the city is facing budget shortfalls and non-stop cuts, why are we not considering selling this gem on the lake to help alleviate some of those shortfalls? Better still, give the property to Pritzker - beg her to take it off of our hands and implement her original plan. At the very least we will certainly generate tax revenue from Pritzker's venture and giving the mansion will leave us no worse off than having a private group cover the teardown cost. The teardown offered up does nothing to alleviate the budget shortfalls. If you are down and out, you capitalize on your valuables. You don't burn them.

Posted: Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Guestbook entry by: Brad White

I attended last night’s City Council meeting regarding the resolution to work with a group of residents to demolish the Harley Clarke Mansion and restore the natural and Jens Jensen landscape. I expected to hear about the plan, but there was no presentation about the plan. In fact, I am not sure a plan exists. Instead we heard that the building would be demolished, the natural landscape restored, the Jens Jensen landscape restored, and parking would be added. But no plan was available to show the Council or the other residents in attendance how this would be done. What would the finished product look like? How can the Jensen landscape be restored when Harley Clarke is an essential element of it? Where would the additional parking be located? And now, City staff has been directed to meet with this group to discuss moving forward. Will a plan be revealed there? Behind closed doors? Shouldn’t a plan have at least been introduced last night for residents to review and discuss?

Advocates for the demolition plan indicated it would come at no cost to the City. But that wasn’t even clear from the presentation. The only thing that was clear was that the group would pay for the demolition. While there appeared to be an overall budget, ranging from $400,000 to $600,000, how can it be accurate without a restoration plan? Not only that, it provided no line items for the community-wide planning process the group promised, additional parking spaces, or ongoing maintenance after the open space is completed.

What I witnessed last night was overwhelming and broad support for preservation and reuse of the Harley Clarke Mansion and an underwhelming response by the City Council and Mayor. There has yet to be an explanation of how, if city staff members were negotiating in good faith with the Evanston Lakehouse and Gardens organization, City staff could negotiate a lease that was so totally unacceptable to the City Council. That makes no sense at all! At the very least, City Council should have found that the City staff misunderstood their directive and should go back to the negotiating table. While Evanston Lakehouse and Gardens has had a somewhat difficult time raising funds, it is primarily due to lack of support from the City. All the City has done is placed roadblocks in their way. It is time the City come out with a positive statement in support of preservation and reuse of Harley Clarke and give the Lakehouse and Gardens folks the runway they need to be successful. There is plenty of room for Harley Clarke and restoration of the surrounding landscape!

Posted: Thursday, June 14, 2018
Guestbook entry by: Carolyn Laughlin

The D65 School Climate Team article, describing the development of custom plans at each school, never mentions the word "principal". How can Ms. Bartz, Lindsay-Ryan (paid consultant), Dr.Goren, and our board members not speak to school leader responsibilities and ownership in this discussion? How can our principals not be taking the lead on this issue in their schools?

D 65's lack luster rating on Leadership Effectiveness (one of the Five Essentials of strong schools, reported in Roundtable, 10/4/17) may be rooted in the District's reluctance to establish clear expectations, empower, and hold accountable school leaders for building positive school culture, and driving academic performance.

Effective principals, in every D65 school, are key to our District's success. I hope to hear more from our principals about their plans to strengthen relationships in their buildings, and improve academic outcomes.

Posted: Wednesday, June 13, 2018
Guestbook entry by: Natalie Wainwright

Confusing Request for Compliance
As a law-abiding resident of Evanston who feels strongly about doing my civic duty, I would be happy to comply with the request made by the City of Evanston, which will be sending an inspector out to check in a week.
However, the City will first have to instruct me on how this is to be accomplished, when I have (a) no garage – we have a gravel driveway – and (b) no fence facing an alley in fact, all “my” fences actually belong to my neighbors, whose backyards are on the other sides of them.

Posted: Wednesday, June 13, 2018
Guestbook entry by: Jack Weiss, Director, Design Evanston

Renegotiate the ELHG Lease
Open Letter to Mayor and Aldermen:
On behalf of the Design Evanston Board of Directors and members, I want to express our deep concern over the uncertain future of the Harley Clarke mansion.
The City Council commissioned a condition assessment study by Wiss Janney Elstner Associates that found the building to be in surprisingly good shape.
Because of the Harley Clarke mansion’s landmark status–and location within the Northeast Evanston Historic District–it’s likely that the Preservation Commission would vote against demolition should that recommendation ultimately come before the Council. We know, however, that the Commission’s vote is not binding and that City Council could override it and still pursue demolition.
Design Evanston supports Alderman Eleanor Revelle’s recommendation to give Evanston Lakehouse & Gardens one year to raise $1 million and, if successful, provide them with an opportunity to renegotiate the proposed lease for Harley Clarke.
When that effort succeeds it will permit Evanston Lakehouse & Gardens to restore and operate the Harley Clarke house as a valuable Evanston asset.

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