Former McKinley and Harrison schools could be demolished soon

Local News

PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The Peoria City Council is working to make sure the old McKinley and Harrison school buildings, both in Peoria’s south end, are knocked down next year.

The city’s Community Development Director, Joe Dulin, said this was such a priority that council will allocate federal dollars from the American Rescue plan in the next city budget.

“Harrison school and McKinley School have been an eyesore and dangerous buildings for the city of Peoria for multiple years,” Dulin said.

This project, however, won’t come cheap: it is a $2 million undertaking. But, Dulin said it’s a long time coming.

“With any vacant building, it’s a huge target for arson, for vagrancy, for vandalism, for people to dump inside,” he said. “Plus, older buildings like that have quite a few environmental concerns. I’m sure there’s asbestos in it based on how they used to build buildings, there’s probably some lead paint.” 

Southside residents said they agree the buildings are eyesores, but they would rather see them repurposed.

“I would like to have something done with it. I wouldn’t like to see it go,” said Justin Powell, an area resident. “It’s part of the community down here. I mean, it’s part of the south end.”

But Dulin said that is not a possibility.

“The cost to rehab both of those buildings would be tens of millions of dollars,” Dulin said. “And unfortunately, you know, we haven’t been able even to find the money to demo them, let alone rehab them.”

He said the money for demolition is coming from COVID relief dollars given to the city through the American Rescue Plan. He also said Rep. Cheri Bustos applied for a different federal grant as well.

Dulin said the demolition will be good for the community.

“When that property looks so bad, it really drags down the property values of the rest of the neighborhood,” he said. “Not only shows the south end that we’re committed to improving the conditions [of], but also improves the health of the people who are surrounding the area, improves the safety of that area.”

Before the demo can happen, though, the city needs to obtain ownership of the buildings.

According to Peoria County’s Recorder of Deeds, the buildings are owned by Waukegan-based Solar Advantage LLC. WMBD is working to contact this organization to find out their plans with the properties.

Dulin said they have already taken the current owners to court in an effort to expedite whatever plans the owners had. Since nothing happened, the city is now trying to take over.

“So what we’ll do is we’ll petition the court to declare the properties abandoned,” he said.

Dulin said the goal is to start and wrap up the demolition process in 2022.

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