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Former St. Mary’s Square could be demolished if owner doesn’t respond

The former St. Mary's Square, 239 S. Cherry St.
Jane Carlson
Tri States Public Radio
The former St. Mary's Square, 239 S. Cherry St.

The Galesburg city council has authorized demolition proceedings for the former St. Mary’s Square building downtown, but that doesn’t mean the building will be torn down.

“This process in part has been initiated in an attempt to locate the owner,” said Interim City Manager John Schlaf. “If that is successful, the process can be stopped at any time.”

239 S. Cherry St. — across the street from the Knox County courthouse — was originally the home of St. Mary’s Hospital, and later became St. Mary’s Square Living Center for people with developmental disabilities.

The property has been vacant since 2013, but was sold two years ago to KXZ Properties of Provo, Utah.

The developer planned to renovate the property into a multi-use facility, but that project has not moved forward – and now there are concerns about the property.

“The property hasn’t had water since 2014. The current owner is not responsive,” said Director of Community Development Steve Gugliotta. “We’re spending thousands of dollars trying to keep it boarded up, which so far hasn’t been very successful with the number of people breaking in and cutting out pipes, electrical wiring, and plumbing, which is very unsafe.”

Police have responded to the property multiple times and have made several arrests for burglary, trespassing, and drug possession.

In October, a man was arrested after police discovered power had been rigged to a room on the fourth floor, according to police reports.

Power tools that would be used to cut copper piping – and methamphetamine – were also discovered.

Last month, officers found a door held open by rope at the property, as well as chairs and lights staged as a walking path across standing water in the basement.

At Monday’s council meeting, Mayor Peter Schwartzman and Ward Four Council Member Dwight White both asked if the building was salvageable.

Gugliotta said the right developer with enough funds could redevelop the property.

Demolition proceedings could also be halted if someone else buys the property.

“The current owner has hired a Realtor. The property is listed for sale,” Gugliotta said. “The asking price is $2.2 million.”

Other business
In other business Monday, the council approved the 2024 budget, which includes a reduction of $29,630 in hotel motel tax revenue for the Orpheum Theatre over the previous year.

As previously reported by TSPR, allocation of the 10.8% hotel motel tax revenue has been under scrutiny for several years.

A contract with the Orpheum dating back to the early 2000s capped funding at $100,000, but that has regularly been exceeded since 2007 as proceeds from the hotel motel tax increased and the larger amounts were annually approved the council.

The 2024 budget reduces funding for the Orpheum back to the contract amount.

According to the annual treasurer’s report, the hotel motel tax generated $896,385 in 2022. Interim City Manager John Schlaf said at Monday’s meeting the tax has generated over $800,000 so far this year.

Other than the Orpheum, the major recipients of hotel motel tax proceeds are the Galesburg Tourism and Visitors Bureau, which receives a flat $190,000, and Galesburg Promise, which is budgeted for $299,200 in 2024. That’s an increase of $34,600 over 2023.

After lengthy discussion, the council also approved the purchase of license plate reader cameras to be used by police.

White and Ward Six Council Member Sarah Davis voted no.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Jane Carlson is TSPR's regional reporter.