Harrison School might receive federal funding to get demolished

PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — An abandoned school in Peoria’s Southside will finally get torn down if legislation that passed the House on Thursday makes it to President Biden’s desk.

The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed funding legislation that includes several community projects in the Peoria area, including $1 million to tear down the old Harrison School, which closed more than ten years ago.

“The Harrison School for multiple years now has sat abandoned and vacant; it’s boarded up, people have dumped on the property,” said Joe Dulin, assistant community development director for Peoria.

Peoria First District City Councilperson Denise Jackson said the building poses a hazard to the community.

“Anytime you’ve got an old building like this, the windows have been torn down, we’ve been told that people have vandalized it, we need to get rid of it as soon as possible,” she said.

Dulin said he submitted a request to demolish the school to Rep. Bustos four months ago and is happy it was included in the funding package.

“Having a big grant from the federal government to use it specifically for that, really allows us to remove that blighting influence from the neighborhood,” he said.

Bustos scored three wins for the Peoria area as part of ten community projects that she requested be included in the funding package.

“This necessary funding would allow for new development and reinvestment in the neighborhood, and I hope to see this funding bill signed into law swiftly to improve the lives of Peoria residents,” she said in a statement to WMBD-TV.

In addition to the Harrison demolition monies, two other local organizations could see funding as well. The Ag Lab would receive $4.5 million for a climate resilience and biomanufacturing program.

Illinois Central College would get $500,000 to fund its Peoria Cradle to Career Initiative, designed to address the critical needs of children and families living in the 61605 zip code.

Dulin said he also submitted a request to Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) to tear down the old McKinley School, another abandoned building in the Southside that Jackson said needs to go.

“I hope the federal government also recognizes that McKinley School needs to come down sooner than later. It has become such an eyesore that if you drive over there, you cannot even see the building because the weeds have become like trees,” Jackson said.

Dulin said razing both schools would be a big help for one of the poorest zip codes in the country.

“It increases property value for people living down there, improves safety for the residents. It would just be a win-win for everybody,” Dulin said.