The Rock Island City Council pushed back Monday against protests to the plan to demolish the old Audubon Elementary School, voting 6-1 to overturn a landmark designation for the building.
Fareway has an agreement with the Rock Island/Milan School District to buy the property at 2617 18th Ave. for $475,000 and develop a supermarket at the site after tearing down the old school.
But the Rock Island Preservation Commission last month unanimously voted to designate the school as a historic landmark. School district superintendent Michael Oberhaus appealed the commission's decision to the city council.
Speaking at Monday's council meeting, preservation commission chairman Kent Cornish said the designation would not affect Fareway's plan because an application for demolition was submitted before the designation was made.However, the designation would come into play if Fareway decided to pull out of the agreement to buy Audubon.
The property still must be rezoned. Fareway is expected to submit an application for rezoning later this week, according to the city's economic development director Jeff Eder.
Ald. David Conroy, 2nd Ward, was concerned the landmark designation could make Fareway "skittish" about completing its purchase of the school.
Sixteen people spoke at Monday's council meeting about the fate of the school, with the majority against its demolition and in favor of keeping the landmark designation.
"There are other grocery store sites," said Alexandria Elias, of Rock Island. "There is only one Audubon."
Jim Bishop, a member of the Rock Island School Board, spoke in favor of the council overturning the landmark title.Keeping Audubon vacant was costing the school district badly needed funds, he said, and no option to save the building has been brought forward.
The school is located in Ald. Kate Hotle's 5th Ward. She provided the sole vote against repealing the landmark designation, saying the "overwhelming" majority of people in her ward she had spoken to wanted the building to be a landmark.
In other business Monday, the council approved a number of steps to bring Walmart to the Watch Tower Plaza site on 11th Street.The city has been steadily buying up parcels at the old shopping center and offering moving help to some businesses before it begins clearing the site for a planned Walmart Supercenter.
At Monday's meeting, the council approved a $125,000 lease buyout with Comfort Furniture, a Watch Tower tenant. Aldermen also approved a $610,000 purchase agreement with Miroballi Properties LLC, which owns the old bowling alley property, also at Watch Tower.
The council also voted unanimously on the first demolition projects at the site, approving a $33,000 bid to demolish houses at 4003 and 4009 9th St. and the former VFW building at 3715 9th St.
The city is expected to spend more than $10 million on property purchases, demolition and other costs associated with Walmart's arrival, according to city officials. Once the buildings have been demolished, the city will sell the site to Walmart for $4.5 million.