A Publication of WTVP

On April 7th, the voters of Peoria County will be faced with a major decision: whether or not to approve a referendum for a 0.25-percent sales tax increase (one quarter on a $100 purchase, excluding food, medical prescriptions and titled goods) to provide the final funding component for the Peoria Riverfront Museum, so we can “Build the Block.”

Beginning in summer 2008, there have been a number of press conferences regarding Build the Block, the Caterpillar Experience and the Peoria Riverfront Museum. Specifically, the IHSA Peak Performance Center, digital IMAX, new planetarium, the greater ability to showcase Smithsonian exhibits, and The Street (i.e. the history of Peoria) have been highlighted. All are interactive, fun and educational exhibits which complement the Caterpillar Experience.

Unfortunately, since last summer, the local economy has changed dramatically. With the declining economy, layoffs and other economic concerns impacting our friends and neighbors in central Illinois, the Build the Block project of $136 million has now evolved into our own local stimulus package. “Build the Block” couldn’t have come at a better time!

On February 4th, Drs. Bob Scott and Joshua Lewer, economic professors at Bradley University, outlined the economic benefits of Build the Block. Their analysis estimates a 14:1 return on the money taxpayers will invest in this project, amounting to $17 per year, per resident. This is a very high-impact project for a low burden. Dr. Scott has been involved in the economic analysis of the HRA taxes and the Civic Center, so he is very familiar with how publicly-supported projects benefit Peoria and beyond. His professional assessment is that this is the best project he has seen in his 30-plus years analyzing Peoria’s economy.

The message to “Build the Block” as our own stimulus package should be viewed very positively. We would be taking control of our destiny and using our talents and resources to help each other, not waiting for a helping hand. While Peoria may get some monies from President Obama’s economic stimulus package, it would be a mistake for us to wait and see what monies we may get while we have our own outstanding stimulus package right in front of us, literally “shovel-ready.”

From now until April 7th, there will be a lot of information communicated to the public about all of the benefits and programs that Build the Block brings. I would encourage you to visit the website,, to learn more and make sure you are very familiar with this project.

It is ironic that the outcome of the referendum will define Peoria for many years to come. If passed, Peoria gets a chance to “Build the Block” and develop a spectacular showcase in the center of downtown Peoria. If defeated, that hole in the center of downtown will be a symbol of Peoria’s inability to get things done. This referendum is a defining moment in the history of Peoria. iBi