Last ditch bid to re-use Audubon school fails

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Developer Joe Lemon submitted a $50,000 bid to buy the old Audubon School in Rock Island last week, the day the school board voted to tear the building down.

"We placed an offer that would allow us to make the investment in the building to re-use it. I guess that wasn't acceptable," Lemon said in an interview with WQAD Thursday, October 31, 2013.

Lemon says he believes the building is worth saving, calling it an "architectural gem," but said the purchase price would have to come way down to make renovation financially feasible.

"Just the bathrooms alone were going to be hundreds of thousands of dollars," Lemon said. "By the time you invested in the purchase of the building and the investment in the building itself, those costs would get too out of control," he said.

The school district's Chief Financial Officer Bob Beckwith says Lemon e-mailed him a $50,000 offer but it was not presented to the school board because it wasn't considered a formal bid.

"You can't make an offer without going through the broker," Beckwith said.

It was hundreds of thousands of dollars lower than a previous offer from Lemon, who initially matched a bid made by Fareway Grocery Stores. Fareway planned to pay the school district $475,000 to demolish the building and build a new store.

Fareway later pulled out after protests from neighbors.

The board has now voted unanimously to tear the 90-year old vacant building down, at a cost of $224,000.  It hopes the vacant site will attract a new business.

"I think it's probably short-sided to try to demolish the building. I think they may end up spending the money and not getting much more at the end of the day, but I have no ability to predict the future," Lemon said.

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