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Evanston Art Center Hopes to Remain at Harley Clarke

After Evanston aldermen voted not to sell the Harley Clarke mansion, longtime tenant the Evanston Art Center hopes to remain in the space at 2603 Sheridan Rd.

Harley Clarke Mansion
Harley Clarke Mansion

Representatives of the Evanston Art Center, longtime tenant of the Harley Clarke Mansion, are expected to tell city officials Monday that the organization hopes to remain in the building at 2603 Sheridan Road.

The art center’s location has been up in the air since city officials first proposed selling the Harley Clarke Mansion more than a year ago, citing increasing costs of repair and maintenance. Facing mounting opposition from the public, however, aldermen ultimately voted not to sell the building to Col. Jennifer Pritzker this summer. Although the art center had been preparing for a move, city officials came back to the nonprofit this September to see whether they wanted to stay after all.

After discussion by the board and staff over the past several weeks, art center director Norah Diedrich is expected to present the art center’s answer to members of the human services committee on Monday.

“The Evanston Art Center wishes to remain at 2603 Sheridan Rd.,” her presentation says, in city documents available online

While the sale of the mansion was up in the air, the art center researched the costs of acquiring and redeveloping another property as its future home, estimating them at $4.5 to $8 million. That sum would far exceed the organization’s financial capacity, according to city documents. Those studies have cost the art center more than $45,000 from financial reserves. 

The art center has worked with a commercial broker and commercial developer to consider relocating, and even made an offer to purchase one property. The building owner turned down their offer, however.

Diedrich is expected to request that the city give the art center 60 days to establish a plan that would allow the art nonprofit to remain at the Harley Clarke Mansion, working with the city on essential improvements. City manager Wally Bobkiewicz estimates that the 86-year-old lakefront property at 2603 Sheridan Rd. needs an immediate $170,000 in safety repairs, including upgrades to the electrical system and fire alarm system as well as plumbing and ventilation improvements.

The art center leases the mansion from the city for $1 per year, and contributes a regular amount toward maintenance and upkeep. 

At a human services committee meeting last month, members of the city council discussed multiple different outcomes for the building, from repair to demolition. Ald. Mark Tendam (6th) Ward, said the city should help the art center relocate, if they will no longer remain in the building. 

The city will seek input from the public before it moves forward with any plans, according to Bobkiewicz.

susan kennedy October 07, 2013 at 08:58 AM
The Art Center has wonderful classes and provides a great service to the whole North Shore. The Harley Clarke Mansion is in terrible shape, filled with mold, dust and puddles in the basement after it rains. The equipment was ofen covered in dust(computers and printers).I would take anti-histamines before every class. The Art Center and Evanston deserve a state of the Art Art Center.
Mary October 07, 2013 at 10:46 AM
Considering the Art Center spent $45,000 from reserves to study a move they now don't have to make, I think they deserve some help. If the city won't do it, maybe it's time for some fund-raisers.
B October 07, 2013 at 12:35 PM
Jennifer, are the terms of the Art Center's lease public? Is it certain who is responsible for the various levels of maintenance?
Jennifer Fisher (Editor) October 07, 2013 at 01:12 PM
B, we've posted the lease online here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/174177532/Evanston-Art-Center-lease-of-the-Harley-Clarke-Mansion
B October 07, 2013 at 01:51 PM
Thank you!

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