A great tradition of democratic government in action took place May 5th with the installation of newly elected and re-elected district council members. And of course, I am privileged with a humble spirit to again serve as mayor of our great city.
Dan Irving (5th District) and Tim Riggenbach (3rd District) bring their talents and passion for Peoria to the Council, replacing veteran Councilman Patrick Nichting and the most able Bob Manning, respectively. Irving and Riggenbach join re-elected Council members Barbara VanAuken (2nd District), Clyde Gulley (1st District) and Bill Spears (4th District) and our five At-Large Council members. These are your fellow citizens and taxpayers who are willing to serve with a deep sense of public dedication and personal sacrifice.
The next 48 months will bring tremendous opportunities for continued progress in achieving our collective vision of being the finest city of its size in the nation. Take a virtual “walk” with me if you will as I look at each of our distinct districts and count the many exciting opportunities in various phases of conceptual development to implementation.
Peoria’s great South Side and most of downtown, encompassing District 1, will be transformed in many dramatic ways. Work continues on the Adams Street Southern Gateway to expand economic growth, improve adjacent neighborhoods through the Harrison School educational and residential impact project, and further beautify one of Peoria’s oldest corridors into the city. Downtown will witness equally dramatic improvements with construction of the Pere Marriott Hotel, the Caterpillar Visitors Center and museum, additional neighborhood stabilization, and expanded development along the riverfront.
A short “walk” up Main Street puts us in District 2. Talk about opportunities and progress! The continued expansion and modernization of Methodist and OSF Saint Francis, in close synergy with the emerging cancer research campus at the College of Medicine, is truly remarkable. Just a short mile towards Bradley, we will witness a multi-purpose development at the site of the former Walgreen’s and additional neighborhood stabilization in the nearby areas as both businesses and residential properties pursue improvements. And then there is Bradley University. The past few years have witnessed such great improvements, both in the physical campus and the University’s role in supporting a better quality of life. And we haven’t forgotten the plans for major upgrades of other 2nd District areas, such as the Sheridan Triangle.
District 3 is also in for its share of excitement and positive change. The Glen Oak School Impact Zone initiative is a model of neighborhood stabilization and advancement arm in arm with educational enhancement, as planned with the new Glen Oak School. The traditional retail centers around Sheridan Village will receive a great boost with Hy-Vee and investments planned by nearby businesses. Metro Centre continues to serve as a great example of how a retail center in an older part of the city can continue to reinvent itself and remain vitally competitive. Planned improvements to War Memorial and Knoxville, as well as other major thoroughfares, further strengthen this district’s reputation as the city’s “heart.”
The strong residential neighborhoods, along with continuing improvement in retail and commercial investments along Sterling, War Memorial and Glen avenues bode well for District 4. I am excited that existing businesses in the area have decided to improve and expand at their present locations when they have the option of conducting their business elsewhere. Plans to enhance the approaches to major shopping centers at the I-74 and Sterling interchange and proceeding north on Sterling will serve as additional reasons for consumers from all over to shop in Peoria. We also plan to continue to work with neighborhood groups to counteract a variety of erosion and water-runoff-related challenges. The Big Hollow shopping complex continues to grow and improve the choices offered to the consumer. This district contributes so much to the city’s sales tax and related revenue streams.
Last, but not least, is the 5th District. This sprawling area is home to such a mix of strong residential and retail/medical/commercial activities that it is difficult to know where to begin. Let’s just say that this area will house a new Peoria Public Library. The area adjacent to north Knoxville as we travel beyond the Route 6 interchange has great commercial and retail investments underway. We will see work move forward on an extension of Pioneer Parkway to the west—a development of huge potential. And with equally great potential is the planned extension of Orange Prairie Road to the north from the Shoppes at Grand Prairie. This public/private project will further accelerate an already fast-paced growth of residential and commercial operations. Without growth a city will stagnate, and the plans on the drawing board, along with shovels already in the ground in District 5, are truly exciting.
Yes, the next 48 months will witness huge change and improvement. I look forward with enthusiasm and pride to work with our new Council, along with re-elected City Clerk Mary Haynes and newly-elected Treasurer Pat Nichting. While much of our time is focused on keeping our budget balanced during these difficult economic times, it is important to acknowledge the continued positive growth in our community. I am confident the newly-seated Council will continue to provide solid leadership to move Peoria forward. iBi