The City of Evanston is considering selling the historic Harley Clarke mansion and 2.5 acres of lakefront property for $1.2 million to James Pritzker’s Tawani Enterprises.
Tawani is proposing to turn the property into a 57-room boutique hotel and a 200-car underground parking garage, while maintaining some public access to the beach nearby.
The Harley Clarke mansion was purchased by the City of Evanston in 1965 as part of the development of the Lighthouse Landing Park, according to the City of Evanston website. It was used as the Sigma Chi National Fraternity headquarters from 1951 to 1965, and was a private residence prior to that. It now serves as the home of the Evanston Arts Center.
The city is considering selling this historic building because they cannot afford the upkeep of the mansion.
“The Harley Clarke Mansion has millions of dollars of deferred maintenance and the city does not have the resources to complete a renovation of the building,” Evanston mayor, Elizabeth Tisdahl, said at a city council meeting in June, as reported by the Evanston Patch.
Potential purchase of the Harley Clarke mansion stirs up controversy for Evanston residents
Tisdahl also said Tawani intends to maintain all public access to the grounds and beach. However, many residents are very upset about the idea of selling lakefront property. Especially since Evanston’s original proposal referenced only the sale of the buildings themselves, and Tawani is proposing to purchase both the building and the 2.5 acres of land that surrounds it.
“The bottom line is protecting our lakefront and the entire Lake Michigan lakefront from private development,” Evanston resident, Barbara Janes, said. Janes founded a group opposed to the sale of the mansion along with two other Evanston residents.
This issue will be discussed publicly during a city council meeting today at 7:30 p.m. in the Civic Center. City officials have met with Tawani representatives in closed meetings three times, but this will be the first open meeting.