Col. James Pritzker's $1.2 million bid for a boutique hotel at the Harley Clarke Mansion involves a 200-car underground garage and limited beach access, according to minutes of closed session meetings held by city officials.
Pritzker was the final bidder on the 2.5-acre lakefront property, which city officials put up for bid last year. Through a company called Tawani Enterprises Inc., the Hyatt Hotel heir has proposed converting the three-story brick building into a 57-room boutique hotel.
City officials discussed the sale of the Harley-Clarke Mansion to Pritzker three times in closed session meetings, on Dec. 17, 2012, again on Feb. 4, 2013, and on Feb. 25, 2013. Evanston resident Junad Rizki shared the minutes of those meetings with Patch, which he obtained via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the city of Evanston.
Rizki also requested copies of the information that Tawani Enterprises presented to city council members as part of their proposal. That request was denied.
Citing the FOIA in her reply to Rizki, deputy city attorney Michelle Masoncup said the city could withhold information prepared for the bid until a final selection was made.
“To date, the City has not made a final selection with respect to the RFP [request for proposals] and the City is still considering the proposal submitted,” Masoncup wrote.
Minutes of the meetings, which were first obtained by the Evanston Roundtable earlier this year, show that the landmark mansion alone was appraised at $2.1 million in April 2012, and "the home and 3,700 square feet of land was appraised for $3 million."
Under Pritzker’s proposal, the boutique hotel would contain 57 rooms, meeting rooms and a ballroom for weddings and other events. There would be limited public access to the beach, although the public beach house would remain.
An annex would be constructed, replacing the current parking space, and Tawani Enterprises would build a 200-car underground parking garage, according to the minutes.
Members of the human services committee raised several concerns at their meeting in December, including the fact that a sale of the building would mean giving up lakefront parkland. Ald. Judy Fiske (1st Ward) cited this as a major concern at the December meeting, but also said she was beginning to believe “this is a landmark that could not be saved.”
Other concerns included access to underground parking, possible property tax concessions, potential revenue to the city and what the sale would mean for the Lighthouse Park District.
Members of the human services committee also said the bid was too low, given the appraisal of $3 million for the home and land, according to the minutes.
At a meeting on Feb. 4, however, members of the human services committee heard back from Tawani Enterprises and learned that there was room for negotiation.
“Mr. Pritizker [sic] reinforced he is prepared to make a substantial investment at no cost to the City,” the minutes read.
Pritzker said residents would still be able to access the beach via a path from Sheridan Road to the lake, and said an above-ground parking lot would available to the public free of charge.
The full city council discussed the issue at a closed session meeting on Feb. 24. Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl suggested that the city ask for more money, according to the minutes.