Couple makes bid on Emerson School with eye on turning it into apartments

Posted: Oct. 9, 2013 10:31 pm Updated: Oct. 23, 2013 11:15 pm

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Felicia Powell intends to make renovating the former Emerson School building "a labor of love."

Powell and her husband, Richard, have entered into an agreement with the Quincy Park District to buy its former headquarters at 1310 Washington. The Powells, who live in Las Vegas, will pay $105,250 for the building, which is more than 100 years old.

The Park Board approved the purchase at the end of its regular meeting Wednesday night.

The agreement is contingent upon the building being rezoned from two-family residential to multifamily residential. The building sits in the middle of a residential neighborhood on Quincy's southwest side.

According to the purchase agreement, the zoning must change before Feb. 28, 2014, unless the parties agree to an extension. If the zoning change doesn't happen, the Powells reserve the right to still buy the property.

The Quincy City Council and Quincy Plan Commission will need to agree to the zoning change.

"You could always hope for more, but you could have always gotten a lot less," Park District Executive Director Ed Seger said. "Emerson is a peculiar and unique property. We thought it had value, but how anyone else would value it was always a little puzzling for us.

"We're fortunate a buyer stepped up and plans to develop the property as is. I would have been a little sad had somebody bought it and tore it down."

Felicia Powell said she and her husband hope to turn the building into an apartment complex. She is not sure how many apartments will fit in the structure, which includes a gymnasium.

Richard Powell, who is from Quincy, also owns the building at 128 S. Fifth that houses the Lincoln-Douglas Interpretive Center. The Powells have apartments in the top floors of that building.

Felicia Powell is eager to work on another building in Quincy, and she said there were many factors that drew them to the Emerson School property.

"The fact that it was a school and was in beautiful shape," she said. "It's also in a wonderful part of town."

The building was built in 1900, and an addition was put on in 1927. The school closed in the mid-1970s. Until moving into the old River's Edge Complex on Bonansinga Drive earlier this year, the Park District had used the building as its headquarters since 1978. It leased the space from the Quincy School District for two years before buying the building in 1980.

"We're pleased with the offer and are optimistic that it can go through," Park Board President John Frankenhoff said. "When the City Council reviews this, we hope that they agree to the contingencies that are involved with this and the project can move forward. It will be a good reuse of that property and good for the neighborhood in the long run."

The district will retain a small neighborhood playground just east of the building. Frankenhoff said that park will remain open for public use.

Seger said the Park District didn't receive any other offers for the building, although one other group inquired, but never followed up. The building was appraised for the land only. Seger said that appraisal price was just above the amount that was offered for the land and building, other than the playground area.