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Lincoln School RI

The former Lincoln School in Rock Island sports a "For Sale" sign as city leaders continue to consider its future. (John Schultz / Quad-City Times)

John Schultz

Historic preservationists who want to save Rock Island’s Old Lincoln School say the building’s last hope may be that its asbestos problem is so bad that bids for its demolition will be cost-prohibitive.

If that were the case, then perhaps the city council would change its mind and look at alternatives, said Deb Kuntzi, president of the Broadway Historic District Association, which represents the area where the school is located. Alternatives would include fixing the roof to the point that the city-owned building could be “mothballed” until some future date when a redeveloper and funding might become available, she said.

Kuntzi made the comments Monday after a city council vote clearing the way for city staff to solicit bids for demolition, with a report to award a bid expected to be on the July 9 city council agenda.

The vote was the latest in a long series of moves regarding the building at 2125 7th Ave.

The former elementary school was built 1893-94 and has been essentially vacant since 1980, when it was closed. It was designated a city landmark in 1984 and through the years, several entities have tried unsuccessfully to redevelop it.

In 2007, the city purchased it with hopes of finding a developer, but meanwhile the building deteriorated, particularly the roof.

Last summer the city council balked at a staff recommendation to make $221,000 in interim repairs, saying that would only delay the inevitable. But in September council members gave a 10-month reprieve for a developer to come forward with a rehabilitation plan.

Because no viable developer stepped up, the city asked for a “certificate of appropriateness” from the city’s preservation commission to demolish the building, according to a staff report. A certificate is required under the city’s historic preservation ordinance because of the building’s landmark status.

On April 25, the commission unanimously denied the certificate, but on Monday the city council overruled the commission. The vote was 6-1, with Alderman Jason Jones voting no. Jones represents the 5th Ward, where the school is located.

“That’s really our only hope — that the bids come in so high that they have to fix the roof,” a disappointed Kuntzi said after the meeting. “If they (the bids) come in at $500,000 — holy cow.”