The saga of the long-abandoned Harmony School took another twist Tuesday.
Lindenwood University razed the former elementary school, which later served as a regional board of education office. It sits on 12 acres at 500 Wilshire Drive just west of the Belleville city limit.
Lindenwood-Belleville president Brett Barger said a final determination has not been made about what will happen to the property.
“Before I started at the Belleville campus there was a plan to turn this into a sports facility that would host track and field events,” Barger said. “I was somewhat surprised to find that neighbors were in support of that. But I didn’t feel that it worked for us. It’s too far from campus and we’re trying to bring things closer together, not put them farther apart.”
At one point, residents of the neighboring Oak Hill Subdivision and other surrounding neighborhoods were upset about District 175’s discussions to turn the property into what was described as a private juvenile detention center.
Those plans for the site, which the university acquired for $1 in 2014, were eventually scrapped. But Barger said the building sat in disrepair for years and it probably isn’t financially or logistically feasible to renovate it into something new. So it will come down.
“It will be better for the neighborhood to have green space here than an old building that is in bad shape,” Barger said. “We’re going to keep the grass mowed short and, generally, make it look better while we determine what we’re going to do with it.”
Barger said Lindenwood doesn’t have any ideas in mind for the property.
St. Clair County approved of the plans for a track and field site shortly after it was purchased. In addition to a track and space for field events such as the hammer and discus throw, the site would have had a 500-seat grandstand and parking needed to hold about six events a year.
The former Harmony School opened in 1973 to replace a school with the same name on 75th Street that was heavily damaged by mine subsidence. Built on a jack system to avoid a similar fate, the newer Harmony school didn't serve its intended purpose for long. It was closed as a school in the 1980s and became home of the St. Clair County Regional Office of Education until 2007. After that, it was leased by a church and served as the home to District 175’s prekindergarten program.