FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 6, 2019
Communications Manager, Landmarks Illinois
Associate Director, National Trust for Historic Preservation
Landmarks Illinois, National Trust for Historic Preservation and Advocates File Lawsuit in Rock Island Regarding Courthouse Demolition Process
CHICAGO – Today, Landmarks Illinois (LI) joined the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Rock Island Preservation Society, the Moline Preservation Society, the Broadway Historic District Association and Rock Island Justice Center bondholder Fred Shaw in filing a lawsuit against the Rock Island County Public Building Commission (PBC) and the Rock Island County Board, to protect the historic Rock Island County Courthouse from unlawful demolition. The lawsuit asks the PBC to be held accountable for violating state preservation law, state law governing the authority and actions of public building commissions, as well as the terms of publicly funded bonds issued to construct the new Justice Center Annex.
The lawsuit contends the PBC is proceeding with demolition of the historic courthouse without complying with the Illinois State Historic Resources Preservation Act and is in violation of the Illinois Public Building Commission Act. Additionally, the lawsuit takes issue with the PBC’s intention to use bonds that were issued exclusively for the Justice Center Annex to be illegally reallocated for the courthouse demolition. The courthouse, constructed in 1896 and determined eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 2017, is located next door to the new annex and is included on LI’s 2018 Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois.
“Landmarks Illinois is bringing this lawsuit to protect the public’s inalienable right to due process,” said Bonnie McDonald, president and CEO of the statewide historic preservation advocacy nonprofit. “The suit also allows additional time to call attention to the reuse potential for the courthouse, which could benefit county taxpayers and preserve an irreplaceable architectural and cultural asset in the community.”
The lawsuit requests the PBC and Rock Island County Board engage with the Illinois State Historic Preservation Office, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, and the Rock Island community in a good-faith effort to find a reuse for the historic courthouse building, including actively pursuing proposals from the private market. Illinois law requires such an effort to avoid the unnecessary destruction of historic resources without the consideration of alternatives. This would also avoid the demolition costs, create jobs and put the building on the tax rolls.
“Demolition of the historic courthouse is unnecessary, violates Illinois state historic preservation law and would squander an opportunity to reuse this important building,” said Elizabeth Merritt, deputy general counsel for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “Alternatives to preserve the historic Rock Island County Courthouse are viable and should be fully explored.”
LI will hold a press conference on this news today, Wednesday, February 6, 2019, at 5:30 p.m. at the Hauberg Civic Center, located at 1300 24th St. in Rock Island. Members of the media and the public are invited to attend.
About Landmarks Illinois
Landmarks Illinois is a membership-based nonprofit organization serving the people of Illinois. We inspire and empower stakeholders to save places that matter to them by providing free guidance, practical and financial resources and access to strategic partnerships. For more information, visit www.Landmarks.org.
About National Trust for Historic Preservation
The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization, works to save America’s historic places. Learn more at Savingplaces.org.