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Post Info TOPIC: Yerkes Observatory


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RE: Yerkes Observatory

The University of Chicago has been a good neighbour to the village of Williams Bay and the other communities surrounding Lake Geneva since 1897, when it opened the now historic Yerkes Observatory. The massive telescope - now obsolete as a scientific tool but with some educational value still - drew scientists from across the world and became in time a national monument to space exploration. It also became a Wisconsin treasure and a favourite spot to visit for more than a few families.

It would be a shame if now, at the end of its ownership of the observatory, the university tarnished its reputation and legacy in the region. But that could happen if the university isn't very careful about what happens to the observatory and the surrounding land after the school leaves. And village officials need to be just as careful in deciding whether to grant a zoning change request to allow development of the site.
At issue is a proposal under which the university would sell the land to a New York-based developer that would build a 100-room lakefront resort and 73 homes on the site. The observatory, and the 30 acres on which it sits, would be donated to the village of Williams Bay, which, in turn, would create an exposition district and turn over operation of the 40-inch refracting telescope to a non-profit operating group.
One can understand the university's desire to unload the observatory; it costs about $400,000 to run annually, and selling the site would generate a hefty profit. Mirbeau Cos. offered $10 million for its resort plan.
Aurora University, which operates a campus adjacent to the Yerkes property, offered $4.5 million and a proposal to build 11 homes.




Posts: 131433

Since 2004, rumours have circulated of the sale of historic Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. The Aurora University and Mirbeau Companies have emerged as the two contenders to buy the historic property. Today, the University of Chicago announced its intent to sell part of the observatory's property to Private developer Mirbeau Cos.
The developer has agreed to pay the university $8 million and a share of room and property taxes for rights to build a 100-room spa and 72 luxury homes.
Thirty of the 79 acres along Lake Geneva in Wisconsin that surround the observatory housing will remain undeveloped.
Dedicated in 1897, Yerkes Observatory's 102 cm telescope is the world's largest refractor. The observatory also houses a 61cm reflector.
While scientific advances and light pollution reduced the observatory's usefulness in recent decades, many influential astronomers, including Edwin Hubble and Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, conducted research there.

Yerkes Observatory

Latitude 42°34'12.88"N, Longitude 88°33'21.87"W



Posts: 131433

Aurora University submitted a proposal on Friday to purchase Yerkes Observatory and the surrounding acreage and buildings located in Williams Bay, Wisconsin, owned by the University of Chicago.

"Our goal is to maximize the long-term educational use of one of America’s significant scientific icons and to preserve its physical structure and heritage" - Rebecca L. Sherrick, president of Aurora University.

"We are very conscious of the genuine pride that local residents take in Yerkes and the lake community’s dedication to responsible development and careful stewardship of the environment. The university’s plan is to balance the preservation and conservation of the land and the facility, while at the same time meeting the needs of Aurora University and the local community" - Rebecca L. Sherrick.

The proposal submitted by the university calls for purchasing a 79-acre parcel of land, including the Yerkes Observatory and telescope, as well as supporting structures. The observatory and 40 acres of land is located adjacent to the George Williams Campus of Aurora University in Williams Bay.
Aurora University’s plan is designed to preserve the historic Yerkes Observatory landscape; provide for continued use of the building as an academic facility and science education outreach centre; merge portions of the Yerkes property with adjacent land owned by AU to create a unified educational setting; promote and preserve woodland and natural areas as much as possible; and develop only that land necessary to finance acquisition of the property by Aurora University.
The Aurora University has worked closely with the local community to develop its proposal, while balancing the historical perspectives and creating a network of support within the area to create a plan that will meet the needs of the local community residents and those who have expressed interest in the project.
According to Larry Larkin of the Yerkes 21 Committee, the goals were the preservation of the observatory building, protection of open spaces and conservation of the woodland areas for the benefit of the people.

"We believe the best interests of the community and the most likely prospects of success can be achieved by merging our efforts with Aurora University and submitting a combined proposal, which we strongly support" - Larry Larkin.

The Yerkes 21 Committee is a not-for-profit organization incorporated by area Geneva Lake citizens early this year.

"The Geneva Lake Conservancy, a land trust and conservation advocacy not-for-profit organization, considers the land conservation planning in Aurora University’s proposal to be responsible and realistic, given that some portions of the site must be monetized to meet the stated requirements of the University of Chicago. Aurora University is working hard and coordinating with the Conservancy to maximize overall preservation of this significant natural and historic property.
While an ideal solution would be complete conservation of woodlands, park and lakeshore, Aurora University’s approach is to maximize preservation in these areas and plan environmentally sensitive development where required
" - Chuck Ebeling, president of the Conservancy.

Goals outlined by the University of Chicago in seeking proposals include the following:
(a) preserve the Yerkes Observatory building and immediate surrounding land;
(b) contribute to the university’s mission of research and teaching; and
(c) contribute to the quality of life in the Williams Bay-Lake Geneva area.
Aurora University worked with Vandewalle & Associates of Madison, Wisconsin, to develop the specifics of the plan.

"We share with Aurora University a strategy that takes into account the potential environmental, social and economic impacts of developing the site. As we developed the plan with Aurora University, we were very mindful of the many different viewpoints involved in defining the future of the site, balancing the historical perspectives with those of contemporary stakeholders" - Brian Ellison, Vandewalle & Associates.

The university’s plan includes assuming responsibility for the operation and maintenance of the facilities and land.
The priority is to maximize the educational use of the observatory as an academic facility and develop a programmatic consortium of outstanding mathematics science organizations to deliver science education outreach programs, as well as offer credit courses and programs. The plan also outlines potential collaborative efforts with the Village of Williams Bay and the Geneva Lake community.
Aurora University has developed a detailed plan for the ongoing operation of the observatory that would make it a Williams Bay and Geneva Lake area regional centre for science and math education.

In the future, plans also call for the facility to become a centre for astronomy and science education where students, middle school through post-doctorate level, could pursue the study of astronomy, mathematics and other sciences throughout the year. The focus of the facility would also include local, regional and national programs for the development of mathematics and science educators, in recognition of the nation’s education priority to increase preparatory programs for mathematics and science teachers.
Aurora University also plans to develop key collaborative academic partnerships and alliances to deliver science and mathematics programming, blending the university’s expertise with that of organizations such as the Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum of Chicago and the internationally acclaimed Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, located in Aurora, Ill. Other academic institutions from Illinois and Wisconsin would also be collaborative partners with Aurora University.

"We are extremely pleased that key groups within the community support us in our efforts to move this project forward. Our vision for the future of Yerkes capitalizes on two programmatic strengths of Aurora University: collaboration and education. We believe that the local community will benefit from these strengths as we continue to contribute to the quality of life in Williams Bay and the Geneva Lake area. Our vision for Yerkes is to create a facility that offers a dynamic and useful future as a world-class learning destination that is consistent with its distinguished past" - Rebecca L. Sherrick.


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