A short memo from City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz to members of the City’s Human Services Committee has cast a shadow over the possibility, welcomed by many residents, that the Illinois Department of Natural Resources will purchase and rehab the Harley Clarke mansion and convert it into the home of its coastal management program.
When Bruce Rauner becomes governor in mid-January, many top staff members, mostly Democrat appointees, are likely to be replaced by staff appointed by the new Republican governor. Given that likelihood, it is also likely that negotiations between IDNR and the City will cease.
In July of 2013, the City Council voted 6-3 to reject a proposal by Jennifer Pritzker’s Tawani Enterprises to purchase the mansion and some additional property to build a boutique hotel. At that July 22 City Council meeting, Fourth Ward Alderman Don Wilson said, “The threshold [issue] is one of preserving a community asset.”
Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said then, “I do not believe we should sell park land.”
If IDNR withdraws its interest or if the City and IDNR are unable to come to mutually agreeable terms, we trust that City Council members will remember that the City purchased the property in the first place for park land. We trust they will also remember the strong public outcry against selling the mansion or any of the park land for private use. And we trust they will remember what they said to the residents of Evanston.
We remember it well.