Community rallies to keep Rock Island County courthouse

Published: Oct. 22, 2018 at 6:59 PM CDT
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Rock Island County board members were among those who showed up to express concerns with the demolition of their courthouse. Concerned citizens hope today's gathering will halt the demolition of their beloved building.

"In January I walked into it for the first time and walked around and said oh my gosh, holy smokes, I can't believe they would tear this down," said retired architect Bill Handel. Handel spoke at the rally and says he's concerned the taxpayer might actually pay more if the county tears down the building.

"I'm afraid they want to tear it down so they can build a brand new building that'll cost a whole lot more than renovation would be," he said. "I think we could probably save the county 10, 20, even 30 million dollars renovating this compared to building new."

As an ex-architect, Handel says things need to be updated, but not torn down.

"Take a look at the inside if you haven't been inside," he said. "It's very beautiful and the kind of building that would cost an arm and a leg to replicate today, and it's just a historic and necessary part of this city."

Handel believes renovating the courthouse will help more than the building itself, and questions which is really better: brand new or historic?

"There's plenty of work to be done renovating this, and I think it'll spark redevelopment for this whole part of Rock Island," he said. "They say they'd rather have new but I think what they need to realize is when you renovate an old building you end up with something better than new."

The speakers at the rally say they've already sent out information to up to 50 different developers, hoping to attract one of them who might want to turn it around.

The demolition is projected to take place at the end of the year.

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