'One more shot': Will anyone come forward to develop Meredith Home?

News-DemocratSeptember 24, 2013 

— The Belleville City Council has planned a special council meeting Wednesday to discuss the Meredith Home.

The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Council Chambers of City Hall, 101 S. Illinois St.

The Meredith Home, located at 16 S. Illinois St. in the Public Square, is the former Hotel Belleville.

Earlier this month, Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert said the city would be willing to delay demolition of the building until next year to see if anyone comes forward to develop the historic building.

"We'll give it one more shot," Eckert said. "We're trying to work with them. We really are."

On Wednesday's agenda are two motions:

* To allow the city to get proposals to redevelop the Meredith Home and to budget for asbestos abatement and demolition in 2014-15. This would allow the city to demolish the building if no one submits a "suitable proposal" to the city by May 1.

The city received bids this summer for the work, but would have to re-bid the project if demolition is needed next year. The demolition, estimated to cost more than $400,000, would be planned for after the Chili Cook-Off in 2014, Eckert said

* To approve a contract with White & Borgognoni Architects to do a condition assessment of the Meredith Home.

The assessment would cost $5,250. The city would pay for $3,675 of it up front and then get a full reimbursement from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. The remainder of the cost will be an in-kind contribution by the architecture firm.

Eckert said the condition assessment will provide additional information about the building that would be of use to interested developers.

The agenda also states that the council may go into executive session to address probable or imminent litigation concerning the Meredith Home.

The city has a contract with Belleville attorney Bruce Cook to turn the Meredith Home property into a memorial park in honor of his late daughter, and City Attorney Garrett Hoerner will review legal ramifications with councilmen Wednesday.

"We did take (Cook's) money," Eckert said. "We did cash it and we did take the loan. We have to make sure we go forward in a proper way. We want to make sure we're being fair."

Eckert has said Cook will want his $500,000 donation back if the city does not develop the Meredith Home into a park.

Cook's daughter, Susannah Marison, died at age 36 in 2010 from a brain tumor.

The city bought the Meredith Home from the Belleville Diocese for $471,000 after a buyer expressed interest in purchasing the building to use it as a home for troubled boys.

Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at jlee@bnd.com or 239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BNDBelleville.

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