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Demolition seems near for historic church in Peoria’s West Bluff

Hale Memorial Church
Hale Memorial Church(25 News Now/Heart of Illinois ABC)
Published: Jun. 21, 2022 at 9:25 PM CDT
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PEORIA (25 News Now) - A long-ago abandoned church, built in Peoria’s West Bluff at the turn of the last century, appears headed for demolition despite a prominent developer’s attempt to save the structure.

Peoria’s Historic Preservation Commission will meet June 29 in a special session to hear the request of Kim Blickenstaff’s KDB Group to demolish Hale Memorial Church at Main and High Streets.

The church has been abandoned for decades. Multiple fires damaged the structure. Currently, there are many holes in the ceiling, and internal brick walls are falling down.

“There’s no way we can get on that roof because the integrity of that wood is a sponge,” KDB Group President and CEO Greg Birkland said. “So we had to come to the conclusion that it wasn’t feasible to move forward, which was a heartbreak because Kim is all about preservation.”

Hale Memorial Church
Hale Memorial Church(25 News Now/Heart of Illinois ABC)

KDB Group is the latest in a long line of owners, who initially sought to rehab and revitalize the church. In the past, previous owners envisioned an arts center, but those plans didn’t work out.

A year ago, Birkland said the church had a stage that “lends itself to an entertainment venue.” Two years earlier, KDB bought the old Scottish Rite Cathedral in Peoria and turned into a performing arts center.

The Group is bringing in some local salvage shops to determine what parts of the building can be saved. The stained glass, for example, was removed and preserved last year. KDB would work with the Peoria Historical Society to turn the lot into a green space and add a memorial to the old church.

“We’re going to continue to tell the great stories about everything going into the ‘High Wine’ District as we enter into the Moss-Bradley neighborhood,” Historical Society Executive Director Colleen Johnson said. “Unfortunately, the Hale Church has just passed the point of no return.”

KDB said it acquired the property last year from a Utah couple who bought the church in an online auction, but could not afford its restoration.

Peoria’s city government was seeking the church’s demolition before KDB became involved.

If approved, the demolition would be expensive, to the tune of $200,000 because of the building’s close proximity to nearby homes and roads like High and Main Streets. Demolition would have to be more precise.

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