PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The Peoria Historic Preservation Commission on Wednesday morning voted unanimously to approve the demolition of Hale Church in the West Bluff.
The historic church, built in 1890, was purchased by the KDB Group last summer with hopes of restoring the church to its former glory. It is located at 401 West High St., at the corner of Main and High Streets.
However, a city inspection in June yielded bad news. It found the entire first floor cannot support any live or dead loads that may be imposed on the flooring and joists, the foundation is riddled with structural damage including missing bricks, and the building has no usable mechanical system, among other findings.
Rich Storm, the city’s building safety manager, deemed the church a “dangerous building.” The church was falling in on itself, severely damaged by water and two fires over the years.
“Overall, the building is in such a state of repair that there was absolutely no way I could say that we need to keep the building as it sits. It does pose an extreme danger and if someone were to get in there, there is no doubt in my mind they would subsequently fall through that floor in any location and be very, very hurt, if not killed,” he said.
Greg Birkland, CEO and president of KDB Group, who petitioned for the church to be demolished, said the church poses a danger to the public.
“This church is actually imploding in on itself. We had no idea when we bought it that it was in this dire strait. We would have still probably bought it, obviously try to save it, but we’re at this predicament now where it is extremely unsafe. There are barricades on the sidewalks, so people don’t walk down the sidewalk because of falling debris from the roof,” he said.
Birkland said the loss of the church is a hard pill to swallow for KDB Group, which prides itself on restoring and preserving historical buildings in Peoria.
“This one is a heartbreaker because we did take ownership of it, we did want to preserve it, and now we have this beautiful church that is falling in on itself,” he said.
Some commission members expressed some concern about what will happen with the space. Birkland said they likely will turn the property into a community green space that pays homage to the church.
Commission members voted unanimously to approve the demolition, with a condition of a plan for future development within three to four months of the meeting.