On Saturday, July 6, I received six Facebook invitations to sign this petition to fight the City of Evanston’s efforts to sell it.
Let’s just say I’ve been living in a cave and don’t know what this is all about (which isn’t too far from the truth). As I’ve come to understand it, the Harley-Clarke mansion has become too expensive for the City of Evanston to maintain. Someone’s offering to buy it (cheap). Residents are ticked because many of the discussions about a potential sale have been in secret (I’m all for privacy but that feels a little shady, no?).
On June 25th, one Evanston resident wrote on this Facebook page:
“I have seen the renderings. They are proposing putting a separate building on the current parking lot and building a larger underground parking structure. There will be the same number of free parking spaces and additional spaces for a fee. They are reworking the entrance to the beach and restoring the landscaping. The city has told Prizker to be quiet on this, but since they are being attacked from all directions they are putting together information to share with the public that will be disseminated in the next week or so. I support everyone's efforts to find the best approach to saving the mansion. I hope people will learn more before they attack this proposal, but I know it can be challenging to get the full story.”
To which another Evanston resident responded the next day, “Why did the city tell Pritzker to be quiet about it? And why is it so challenging to get the full story? Feels like back room deals and that's, in part, why people are so uncomfortable with this.”
I have questions and comments, too:
Has a community group formed (like Evanston Public Library Friends) to attempt save this old building? Like The Mighty Twig…
…speaking of which, I can’t help but think of the Big Bad Wolf from The Three Little Pigs, huffing and puffing. At least Harley-Clarke’s made out of brick; might buy supporters a little more time…
…speaking of which, how long has the City owned the mansion? According to the city’s website, the City of Evanston purchased the mansion in 1965 from the Sigma Chi National fraternity, who’s used it as its headquarters for fourteen years. Prior to that, it had been a private, lakefront residence.
…speaking of which, I do not own a private, lakefront residence, so I’ve often wished for a lovely summer evening during which I could sit down on the lakefront (possibly dressed up with my husband or my family or some girlfriends) and enjoy a glass of wine and dinner, looking out over the lake. Is the Pritzker proposal something that might allow me to do that? And if so, how many Evanston friends would I lose in the process?
…speaking of which, I don’t want to lose friends. I want to keep the ones I have and make many new ones, including those brave enough to open new businesses…and I could care LESS what color they are or which neighborhood they live in. I’m happy with my glass of wine on my own porch and a sandy picnic dinner on the beach….
…speaking of which, if the Pritzker proposal even touches Lighthouse Beach access for Evanston residents, we have a big problem. I don’t care if there’s Hyatt Hotel history in his blood: if Jay Pritzker learns anything in this process, he’ll recognize how much our parks and our beach access mean to us…
…speaking of which, accessing Lighthouse Beach by car is such a nightmare that I’d welcome ANY reconfigured parking proposals. I like everything about Lighthouse Beach except getting to Lighthouse Beach; there so few parking spaces and street parking requires crossing Sheridan Road with kids (can you say anxiety?). I’d gladly walk or bike, but who am I kidding? I live in South Evanston where I can walk to 4 other beaches faster than I can find parking near Lighthouse Beach. However, if I lived further north, I’d stroll over every day.
I giggled a bit when I found a “closed” Facebook group called KEEP EVANSTON ARTS CENTER A PUBLIC SPACE. Don’t get me wrong, I joined it because I want to know what’s going on. But still. And speaking of Evanston Arts Center…
…I know this is nit picking, but it’s Evanston Art Center, right? I see it listed as Evanston Art Center in several places, so I’m going with that. But then, when I see it called Evanston Arts Center here and here, I get a little kooky…
Maybe I just need to stop writing about all the things going on in Evanston and let the readers start commenting.