Neighbors React After Buyer Backs Out of Audubon School Site Agreement

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Moline Acquisitions LLC has backed out of its plan to buy the former site of the Audubon School in Rock Island, according to Dr. Mike Oberhaus, Superintendent of the Rock Island-Milan School District.

In May of 2014, the Rock Island-Milan School Board accepted a purchasing agreement from Moline Acquisitions LLC for $700,000. Thomas Morabito was the planned buyer of the site. Morabito works for Seneca Real Estate Advisors out of Chicago. Morabito did not return phone calls to News 8 on Thursday, July 10, 2014.

Dr. Oberhaus tells News 8 the developer did not give a reason for terminating the agreement. He says there is disappointment that the development was not fully executed, but they are hoping to get another interested developer quickly and put the property back in productive use for the community.

Assistant City Manager Jeff Eder also says he doesn't know why the sale fell through. He says that often times, tenants will back out of deals with buyers. Dr. Oberhaus and Eder both said that the property is back on the market. Dr. Oberhaus says they are relying on their brokers to actively market the property and hopefully find a buyer.

The news comes almost one year ago to the day, that Fareway backed out of its plan to buy the site. The grocery store group took out its bid after concerns from neighbors.

"We were mainly concerned about the building of anything there that would front on 17th Avenue, because that's a really residential street," says Tom Taylor, who has lived down the street from the Audubon area since 1977. "It's not like fronting 18th Avenue."

"When they were considering putting that Fareway in, the Department of Transportation did a traffic study and on 17th Avenue. Out of a scale of 100, they rated that road a 23."

Then, in October, the Rock Island-Milan School District School Board voted to demolish Audubon in hopes an empty lot would attract more interest.

"It was kind of disappointing," says George Nesbitt, who lives nearby. "My son went to that school and what was most disappointing to me was the fact that they killed all those trees."

"There's so many sad things about that," adds Taylor. "That was a very sound building and as we watched the demolition we watched a couple hundred thousand dollars worth of fairly new air-conditioning equipment on top of that building just being torn down - what a waste of money."

"It's very sad what has happened to neighborhood schools."

Now, there's nothing at the site and neighbors are starting to share what they would like there.

"I was against the grocery store thing, but I would like an apartment complex and someway to keep some of the green space, like have a park there or something," says Nesbitt.

"We'd like to see smaller bedroom type businesses there which don't front 17th Avenue," adds Taylor.

Taylor says it's important to find something that fits the block, not something that blocks the residents out.

"It's really an attack on the neighborhood is what it is and this community is seemingly doing that in many areas in the city and outlying areas," he says. "It's almost an invasion of residential communities."

To see more of our Audubon coverage, click here.