I hesitate to use the word “epiphany,” but I did experience an awakening of sorts a few weeks back as were busy here at CIBP putting together the latest issue of Peoria Progress magazine.
We publish that magazine twice a year, so by now we’re all accustomed to the required tasks. That’s not to say the process isn’t hectic. It is! But in fairness, it may be no more or less hectic than the day-to-day things that enter into all of our lives. Those are the things that form the trees which sometimes keep us from recognizing—and appreciating—the forest.
But back to my epiphany, or as the dictionary would define: “A sudden manifestation of the essence or meaning of something.”
It hit me that things are really happening in the area. Oh sure, we all read or hear about developments as they’re announced and opened, but it’s easy in our hurried lives to look at this in a piecemeal fashion. We don’t have—or take—the time to look at the bigger picture.
As we were compiling a list of just the recent developments in the area, it became very obvious that “Progress” was the perfect title for this magazine.
The Shoppes at Grand Prairie, of course, is the biggest news lately. Beyond shopping, it truly is as advertised—central Illinois’ first outdoor lifestyle center. “Central Illinois” is the proper term because shoppers from cities miles away are flocking here, responding to the “Where outside is in style” advertisements in their local newspapers.
The Shoppes’ numbers are staggering—2,000 jobs, a $40 million annual payroll, and between $7 million and $12 million in local taxes. I wish more citizens and politicians recognized that means $7 million to $12 million won’t have to be added to the taxes we now pay, but that’s for another time.
In that same area, count SuperWal-Mart and Menards as coming contributors to the local economy. Next year, a $12 million Central Illinois Comprehensive Cancer Center will join the neighborhood. Illinois Central College has expanded into what could have been a vacant building. And don’t forget the new Midtown Cub Foods-anchored shopping center. Continuing past the freshly planted palm trees at O’Brien Field, we come to the downtown area, where ribbons seem to be cut at a breathtaking pace. The latest attention-getter downtown is a dandy.
Check out the $12 million Maxam entertainment complex anchored by inPlay, home to more than 125 virtual reality games and old favorites. In that one building alone, you’re bound to find something you like to do—or used to like to do. Building and plans continue at our downtown Riverfront.
Crossing the river, we see 80 acres in East Peoria that will provide a new focal point for commercial growth, and a park recognizing where Caterpillar first came to the area.
Then we arrive in Pekin. Wow! The riverfront, a downtown wharf, a $5 million City Hall and police station, and East Court Village; the reawakening of the Pekin Mall; and a new Wal-Mart planned for the area that will draw people on expanded roads.
Stopping to rest after this breathtaking tour, it hit me that maybe we’ve been lulled into a false sense of mediocrity or lowered expectations by all the economic news that hits us daily. Recession, budget deficits, stagnant stocks, airlines operating more on a prayer than a wing…you name it.
Oh, we have issues to be sure, but we’re well beyond any point of debating whether the glass is half empty or half full. Like the growing fundraising coffers at Lakeview and the zoo, our glass is filling and filling fast. It’s hard to imagine a more positive, exciting time in the area’s history.
I think I’ll celebrate that this weekend … but where to start? IBI