If the Harley Clarke mansion is sold, the Evanston Arts Center would have to relocate. The sale is complicated, because the City wishes to retain lakefront access. Photo by ERT Staff

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City Council gave the green light to City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz to continue efforts to sell the Harley Clarke Mansion and enter into a long-term lease of the Noyes Cultural Center.

With these moves would come a relocation of the Evanston Arts Center to an as yet undecided destination.

Faced with intimidating repair bills at both buildings, Council has been eyeing for months the possible sale of both buildings.

Concerted efforts by current tenants at Noyes have shifted the conversation from the sale of the building to Piven Theater and others to instead a lease of about one third of the building to Piven. And efforts to sell the mansion have run into trouble in that the mansion sits on a parcel that provides lake access and efforts to subdivide that parcel have proven difficult.

 A new tenant organization at Noyes has insisted on a seat at the table for all negotiations with Piven.

Piven has agreed to pump $2.5 million into the building to renovate space. Questions remain as to how much of this money would go to common areas, such as public restrooms and the building’s roof, and how much would be for space used exclusively by Piven.

Mr. Bobkiewicz said that the City is proceeding “deliberately and with maximum consideration” given to all interested parties at Noyes. “It is not the most efficient way” to conclude the deal, he admitted, saying the City was moving slowly and taking a long time to reach “an agreement that makes sense for all involved.” Most of the details of the deal remain to be ironed out.

Council ultimately granted Mr. Bobkiewicz the authority to enter into a memorandum of understanding with Piven – essentially a roadmap for a lease that would then be presented to City Council to consider.

Even with the slow, deliberate, inclusive pace described to the Human Services Committee on Feb. 6, Noyes tenants complained that they were being shut out of the process. The slow pace continues.

Evanston Arts Center’s director Nora Deidrich said the next step is probably thee to four months away for that organization. It would appear that the City is operating at about the same pace.

Meanwhile, the Harley Clarke Mansion presents a different problem. The building sits on a property than provides the City with beach access, and legally subdividing the property has proven difficult. There are four different legal parcels with different deed restrictions and constraints, said Mr. Bobkiewicz. “There’s work to do regarding that,” he said, but added that the outlook was “very positive.”

 The next step is for the City to obtain an appraisal setting a fair market value for the building. Mr. Bobkiewicz said he anticipates returning to Council by the end of April “with a proposed plan for the solicitation of proposals for other uses of the Mansion beginning in 2013.”

 It would appear that any number of options remain on the table for the Mansion, though it is clear that the Arts Center will be moving out.