Several years ago, there were a number of articles written about a “Peoria Renaissance.” As you may recall, there was tremendous excitement building as plans for Vision 2020 under former Mayor Dave Ransburg were coming together. The plans included a number of major building projects throughout the Greater Peoria Region. Subsequently, as the announcement was made by numerous organizations of their building plans for the future, the scope of which easily exceeded $600 million, it was crystal-clear that the dream of a Peoria Renaissance could very well occur.
The first of those plans, the Peoria NEXT Innovation Center on Main Street, has been open for two years now. The Illinois Medical Center, at the corner of Kumpf and Main on the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria (UICOMP) campus, opened recently. The next major opening occurred last month at the Peoria Zoo, clearly something to behold. The new Africa! exhibit is outstanding in its design and breathtaking as you walk in to see the giraffes, rhinoceros and zebras playing and galloping before your eyes. It is something every resident will want to experience.
Most recently, the successful referendum on Build the Block continues to keep the momentum toward a Peoria Renaissance. As the various stakeholders meet to move the project forward, the Peoria Riverfront Museum and Caterpillar Experience are tentatively planning to open July 1, 2012. Between now and then, other major projects—the Methodist Medical Center, OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, Peoria Public Library and the Bradley University capital improvements—will likely come online. At UICOMP, the potential is very high for a new cancer center development that will complement Main Street, with $10 million of the needed $13 million committed to date.
A new project not contemplated years ago but now getting serious consideration is the Marriott Hotel and renovation of the Pere Marquette. Plans for that project continue to move forward. A diverse range of hotel accommodation options are necessary if we are to continue to attract conventioneers and other types of business travelers.
With the Peoria Zoo, the Caterpillar Experience and Peoria Riverfront Museum—along with the Peoria Chiefs’ O’Brien Field and continued development of the Arts and Warehouse District—there will clearly be more opportunities for day and overnight trips to Peoria in the next couple of years. These activities will enhance the tourism features that have long been a strong component of the local economy. With the Illinois High School Association Hall of Fame in the Peoria Riverfront Museum, this should allow numerous opportunities to host a greater number of high school sporting and academic events, thus bringing more people to Peoria.
If the Peoria community can continue to see those projects through to completion between now and July 2012, we should be well positioned to realize the Renaissance so many people have dreamed about! iBi