Historic Rock Island County Courthouse not for sale despite developer's offer

Historic Rock Island County Courthouse
Historic Rock Island County Courthouse(KWQC)
Published: Jan. 21, 2020 at 10:39 PM CST
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A Quad Cities real estate developer has, once again, offered to purchase the historic Rock Island County Courthouse, but the property is not for sale.

Local developer Joe Lemon spoke at Tuesday's Rock Island County board meeting and presented a contract to purchase the building.

"I'm going to present this offer to you. It's a binding contract. You can execute it tonight. We can record it. And I'll pay it," Lemon said to the board.

His offer included a $500,000 purchase price and an over $8 million agreement for renovations.

If you feel that this price is not fair, then I welcome you to negotiate the purchase. In additIon, we estimate that the redevelopment of the historic courthouse may total as much as $8 million. Respectfully, that $8 million redevelopment cost represents much needed investment in our community," Lemon said.

Rock Island County board Chairman Richard Brunk said the property is not for sale and won't be for sale in the future.

"At this point we're so far down the road. There's a number of legal obligations that the county has with the public building commission, and the public building commission has with contractors, and so on. For the county to attempt to backpedal, there's some serious legal concerns there," he said.

According to Brunk, the property, which was deeded to the county in 1841, was never put up for sale because of multiple reasons, including its proximity to the new Rock Island Courthouse.

"The building is only approximately 40 feet from the glass front of the court facility. That is a security concern," he said.

He also said the county has a longterm goal to develop part of the property to consolidate the amount of county buildings.

"Anyone that understands the cost of operating numerous facilities understands that when you reduce the number of roofs, you have the potential to create efficiencies there. Those efficiencies will dwarf any property tax revenue would bring in as a private property. We're talking hundreds of thousands, if not more, dollars a year," Brunk said.

Despite the continued persistence of historic preservationists, which have included lawsuits, paired with Lemon's offer to the county board, the property will not be sold by the county.

"I'll be honest with you, I had to put my personal feelings as a preservationist aside, because I have a larger responsibility to the residents and taxpayers of Rock Island County," Brunk said.

The Rock Island County board voted to tear down the courthouse in 2018.

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