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As the Harley Clarke Mansion Committee winds down, members will be preparing for the May 18 community meeting, at which it will present five options:  demolition of the mansion and restoration of the grounds; renovation of the mansion under City ownership; use as a commercial space, such as a boutique hotel; sale to a private developer for a permitted R-1 use; and stewardship of the building by a private or public entity, which would own the building as a gift from the City.

As now planned, the evening will consist of five presentations, one for each option, and a station for each option at which the main question will be “What is the ‘con’ of that option?” In describing his proposal for the public presentation, committee chair Steve Hagerty suggested that a member of the community make a video presentation of the “pros” – one community member for each option. Committee members said they would accept self-nominations from community members wishing to be the presenters of the “pro” for any of the options and will make its decision and notify those selected on May 12.

Beginning the process of refining the recommendations, committee members debated how to handle the matter of costs. Linda Damashek and Garry Shumaker were on opposite sides of the issue. Mr. Shumaker said he felt that cost estimates provided by the City are “unreliable” because they stem from an engineering study that is both outdated and superficial – because it is three years old, because it  was compiled after a walk-through rather than after certain tests, analyses and in-depth tests had been conducted and because it was not tailored to any specific use.  Ms. Damashek, on the other hand, said she felt the City’s estimates – about $200,000 to bring the mansion up to safety-code standards and about $600,000 to make it “habitable” and “leasable” – were reasonable and should be put before the public. 

Mr. Shumaker’s point prevailed with the committee members.

Ten people spoke during the citizen comment portion of the meeting, many of them supporting the option of keeping the mansion public.

Mary Rosinski said, “I’m concerned that this is the only project that the City has turned over to residents.” When there were issues with properties on Howard Street and with the former Boocoo property, the City purchased them outright.

Dave Jennett said the lighthouse, fog houses, the mansion and the lake together offer “the opportunity to create a place that is educational and an historic district.” The mansion could be used for classrooms, events and a “Great Lakes and maritime center.”

The May 18 community meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on May 18 in the Parasol Room of the Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Ave.

Mary Gavin

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...