The first stage in the demolition of abandoned Peoria schools will begin soon

PEORIA – Work is poised to begin on the demolition of the old Harrison and McKinley school buildings in Peoria.

Once the Peoria City Council approves the bids, workers will likely begin environmental remediation in the last week of December or first week of January, said Joe Dulin, the city's assistant director of community development.

“There is quite a bit of lead paint and asbestos they have to take care of. That’ll take them about a month or month and a half to get done, then they’ll start on the actual bulldozer work," said Dulin.

Harrison School sits vacant at 2727 W Krause Ave. in South Peoria.
Harrison School sits vacant at 2727 W Krause Ave. in South Peoria.

Harrison School, which stands at 2815 W. Krause Ave., was built in 1901 and closed in 2010. Peoria Public Schools sold it two years later, and it changed hands several times after that.

McKinley School, 1201 W. Adrian G. Hinton Ave., was built in 1936. It was an elementary school until 1977, and then became a continuing education center for adults until 1983. It was used for a number of years as a storage facility by PPS, but was eventually sold.

Both buildings are in bad condition and have been a blight to their neighborhoods for a long time, but it's costly to demolish massive brick buildings, and it took the city a long time to secure the funds. The COVID pandemic helped; $2 million from the American Rescue Plan Act is being put toward the project. And last spring, the final piece of the funding puzzle was set in place when U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos secured a $1 million federal grant.

Demolition is likely to use up most, if not all, of that money, Dulin said.

“Both schools combined will cost about 2.8 to 3 million dollars,” Dulin said. “It just depends on how it goes.”

'Biggest pieces of blight':Two abandoned schools in Peoria set to meet the wrecking ball

In addition to securing funding and hiring contractors, city employees have also been thinking about preserving history.

“We worked with the Historical Society. They did a walkthrough of the building to see what they might want to save, and we made a list,” Dulin said.

Though a lot of things have been stripped from the schools in the years since they were decommissioned, there are still some architectural features that will be saved for yet undetermined future use, Dulin said.

More:The pros and cons of Peoria's affordable housing market

As for the land the buildings sit on, it will likely be used to provide more affordable housing to the community, Dulin said. The Peoria Housing Authority has properties close to Harrison School, and it’s likely it will want to expand.

“Ultimately, when we get any half block or block amount of land in the 61605 area code, our No. 1 priority is to see what we can do to add some more affordable housing back to that area, to attract more residents back to the area,” he said.

More:Peoria's housing market has become 'so segregated.' Why it persists to this day

PHA does not have properties near the McKinley School site, but it might be possible to attract another affordable housing developer to the area, Dulin said.

McKinley School sits empty at 1205 W. Adrian G. Hinton Jr. Avenue in South Peoria.
McKinley School sits empty at 1205 W. Adrian G. Hinton Jr. Avenue in South Peoria.

While a lot of folks have been critical about how long it’s taken the city to get rolling on the school demolition project once it secured the funds, Dulin pointed out the complexity of the project.

“A lot of different factors go into it. First of all, there was a lot more environmental testing that we had to do than we anticipated once we got in there; there was a lot more lead paint than we anticipated," Dulin said. "But at the other end of the spectrum, until about a month and a half ago, we hadn’t even gotten the final agreement from HUD to move forward with the million dollars they gave us.”

Dulin expects both projects to be complete by May or June of 2023.

Leslie Renken can be reached at (309) 370-5087 or Follow her on

This article originally appeared on Journal Star: Demolition of abandoned Peoria schools will cost about $3 million