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Following up on revelations one year ago that the City of Evanston was considering developing the Harley Clarke Mansion into a fast-food emporium, the RoundTable has learned that City Council, meeting secretly, April 1, has decided to go ahead with the plan and invite bids from fast-food franchises to locate at the soon-to-be-vacant Harley Clarke Mansion at 2603 Sheridan Road.
The City has long known that the mansion is in need of millions of dollars in repairs. The current impetus and acceleration of the fast-food plan is a result of two recent developments. First, the Evanston Art Center, which has for years operated as the sole tenant in the mansion, is scheduled to move to a new home at 1717 Central St. this June.
And second, a plan to utilize the mansion as a lakefront office of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources unraveled after the agency cited the difficulty of operating the site without owning the land, a condition of the transaction.
The City expects to reach out next week to McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Starbucks and other big-name restaurant chains seeking to determine how much interest they might have in locating on the site.
“It would be a prestigious venue, along the lakefront, with a great view of the lake, easy access to the beach, and close proximity to the North Shore and Northwestern University,” said a source close to City officials.
Among the possible culinary offerings being dangled by the City to lure interested restaurateurs are McMansion Burgers, Beach Baconators, Lighthouse Lettuce and Tomato Sandwiches, Sheridan Road Shakes, and Whoppers-by-the-Waves.
If the fast-food idea falls through, however, City officials are also considering the site for a residential high-rise, a wind farm with a 450-foot turbine built atop the Gross Pointe Lighthouse, or a recycling center that doubles as a restaurant, to be called Leftovers.
Perhaps the most innovative idea under discussion is converting the mansion to a year-round Harley Clarke Haunted House and charging admission. “It’s in pretty scary shape already, and this way we wouldn’t have to do any maintenance,” said the source. “After all, Halloween comes only once a year, but horror is forever.”