OTTAWA — A lawsuit to keep the historic Rock Island County Courthouse from being demolished is moving forward.
An appeal of an earlier dismissal of the lawsuit will begin with oral arguments at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 6, in the Third District Appellate Court, 1004 Columbus St., Ottawa, Ill.
Landmarks Illinois, a statewide nonprofit group dedicated to saving historic places, filed suit against Rock Island County and its Public Building Commission Feb. 6 to stop proposed demolition of the courthouse. It was joined in the suit by the National Trust for Historic Preservation; the Rock Island Preservation Society; the Moline Preservation Society; the Broadway Historic District Association; Rock Island resident Diane Oestriech; and Frederick Shaw, one of the bondholders in Rock Island County's Justice Center Annex project.
The lawsuit has been in legal limbo since being dismissed March 19 by Peoria County 10th Circuit Judge Jodi Hoos. An emergency appeal was filed by the plaintiffs three days later, preventing demolition activities. Landmarks Illinois paid bond of $336,000 as part of the appeal.
The plaintiffs are being represented by the Chicago law firm Jenner & Block, LLP. Read the original complaint here.
"Landmarks Illinois is confident in the merits of our case as it will be presented in oral arguments, which we are working on to prepare with co-plaintiffs and our attorneys," Landmarks Illinois President Bonnie McDonald said Friday.
"Landmarks Illinois continues to advocate for reuse of the Rock Island County Courthouse, and as demonstrated at a recent community meeting, many local residents support investment in this historic building rather than demolition. Obviously, Landmarks would prefer to resolve this matter by working with the county and the PBC rather than through litigation," she said.
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"We continue to believe there exists a common-sense solution that will benefit the community, as reflected in the settlement proposal we made months ago," McDonald said.
Landmarks Illinois offered to settle its suit against the county and PBC April 24 if the county would agree to solicit proposals from developers to rehab the courthouse.
When no acknowledgement was made of that offer, Landmarks Illinois sent another letter July 31 asking for a reply. County officials rejected the offer Aug. 7.
The courthouse, 210 15th St., Rock Island, was built between 1895 and 1897 in the Spanish Renaissance style and has an exterior crafted of Bedford limestone. It has been named to Landmarks Illinois' annual Most Endangered Places List for the second year in a row.
Meanwhile, courthouse advocates continue to make their voices heard at every county board meeting during the public comments portions of the meetings.
On Sept. 25, more than 150 courthouse supporters attended a community meeting at the Hauberg Civic Center, 1300 24th St., Rock Island, to share ideas about what can be done to save the historic structure.
The meeting was attended by Frank Butterfield, Landmarks Illinois' Springfield office director; State Rep. Mike Halpin, D-Rock Island; Rock Island Ald. Dylan Parker, Ward 5; Rock Island County State's Attorney Dora Villarreal; local developer Joe Lemon; and county board members Angie Normoyle and Ed Langdon.