I’d like to think it’s the fast pace of things happening around here—and not age—that makes the years pass so quickly. Last year was, by most measures, a good one for the Peoria area. National City Bank Regional President Doug Stewart’s community address at this year’s Chamber of Commerce Thanksgiving luncheon encouraged us to build upon the spirit of “Team Peoria.” A peek at the following stories we’d like to see among this year’s good news in 2006 include:
• I-74 upgrade comes to an end. Traffic flows through town like only the wildest dreamers could have imagined. Drivers have barely enough time to admire the stone work and columns on the bridges.
• The Peoria Chiefs set another attendance record. Just as importantly, fans are spending more time downtown before and after the games.
• Downtown retail choices expand as merchants capitalize on the growing number of families, residents, and downtown employees who see the area as a delightful place to spend an early evening.
• Hotel Père Marquette renovation moves into its next phase, showcasing the elegance a historic downtown hotel should possess.
• Peoria Civic Center expansion takes shape and looks almost seamless with the original
• Community School concept takes hold. Residents find their neighborhood school the place to be in the evenings and during the summer.
• Peoria City Council, acting more and more as a cohesive group, debates how to find more riverfront parking to accommodate the throngs of people visiting the area.
• City and county officials work together with the Economic Development Council of Central Illinois to promote the good of the region.
• Peoria NEXT Day of Discovery draws thousands who tour various businesses, schools, facilities, etc. and put Peoria at the top of their lists.
• Greater Peoria Regional Airport experiences record growth. New flights and locations dominate the news.
• The Port District hires its first paid director, as new economic development is brought to the region.
• District 150 continues to ride the wave of optimism it started last year. Parents, residents, and city officials see the wisdom in the plan to demolish outdated buildings and provide students with state-of-the-art schools, including a math and science academy.
• Peoria Police Department increases emphasis on drugs, truancy, police cadets, community schools, etc.
• The PeoriaNEXT/Innovation Center receives full funding, and entrepreneurs lease space in the finished building.
• The Central Illinois Regional Museum seems even more of a reality as the last scrap from the Sears building leaves the site and work begins in earnest on the museum and the Caterpillar Visitor Center.
• The new zoo and Children’s Museum construction begins.
• A new generation of philanthropists emerges to support the necessary institutions that make the Peoria area great. Team Peoria proudly rallies the entire area.
• New governor is elected in Illinois!