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City Seeks Bids On Harley-Clarke Mansion

Evanston’s human services committee voted Monday night to issue a request for proposals from four buyers who expressed interest in the mansion, including Col. J.N. Pritzker.

Evanston officials voted Monday to seek bids for purchase or lease of the Harley-Clarke mansion at 2603 Sheridan Road, longtime home of the .

Earlier this year, the city issued a request for proposals from anyone interested in the 37,700-square-foot property. Four individuals contacted the city, including Col. J.N. Pritzker of Chicago’s famous philanthropic family, according to deputy city manager Joe McRae.  Pritzker suggested the property could become a boutique hotel or event center, while other proposals came from the founders of a Montessori high school and two people interested in transforming it into an event center, hotel or bed and breakfast. 

Once a private residence, the historic English Tudor mansion served as the headquarters of the Sigma Chi National Fraternity from 1951 to 1965, according to McRae. The city purchased the three-story brick building in 1965, during the development of the .

For more than 40 years since, the Evanston Art Center has called the site home. But earlier this year, the organization announced its plans to relocate to a more urban setting closer to public transportation. That move is expected to take place some time in 2013, according to McRae.

Members of the human services committee said they had some hesitation about selling the property, because it is surrounded by parkland. In an effort to protect the public use, city documents stipulate that the buyer would be purchasing only the building itself. But some aldermen worried that the limitation itself could create problems. 

“I think anyone that makes an investment in these facilities is going to want to make sure they have access to the outdoor properties,” said Ald. Mark Tendam. “My expectation is that we’re going to have to use some land, at least.” 

McRae explained that the four respondents to the city’s initial request for interest all understood the limitation fully, however. 

“They’re willing to come to the table and discuss those issues further,” he said. 

Members of the human services committee voted unanimously to go forward with the request for proposals for purchase or lease.

“We just have to hear what the market says back to us,” said Ald. Judy Fiske. “At that time, we can say yes or no.”

The city will submit its official request to the four interested buyers in mid August, according to McRae, with a deadline for receipt of proposals in late September. 

E. August 07, 2012 at 03:13 PM
Parking for the Central street beach and the adjacent public park is already *extremely* limited. If the art center mansion becomes a private event center, hotel or high school, that would greatly increase the demand for parking and the flow of traffic in & out. Presumably a private owner would require some land for parking be deeded along with the building, don't you think? I can only envision that this would either result in beach parking becoming nearly impossible, or the lawn in front of the mansion would have to be turned into a giant (ugly) parking lot. Has there been any thought given to this issue, and if so, what does the city have in mind? Is there any chance we could retain this building for some sort of city use, rather than selling off such an important part of Evanston's publicly accessible lakefront real estate?
Jennifer Fisher August 07, 2012 at 03:29 PM
E., you make a good point and it is something that Ald. Tendam mentioned at the meeting. Anyone else think this will be a problem?

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