A Publication of WTVP

A Glass Half-Full… And Overflowing

Developers and residents have a tremendous opportunity to make their dreams come true.

by Michael J. Freilinger, Downtown Development Corporation of Peoria |
Developers and residents have a tremendous opportunity to make their dreams come true.

Is the glass half-empty or half-full? According to Alexa, “The glass contains half the amount of liquid for it to overflow.” That is a very practical, scientific response. When people are asked that same question, the responses vary depending on their life perspective at that particular moment. So, is Downtown Peoria half-empty or half-full? Do people see deep-rooted stagnation or boundless opportunity? It all depends on who you ask.

A Different Perspective

Every one of us can take things for granted, and we often do. How often have you heard that New York residents have never visited the city’s great landmarks—the Statue of Liberty, Times Square or the Empire State Building? Meanwhile, those who don’t have the opportunity to see them whenever they want will spend thousands of dollars to travel to see them. This happens all the time and in every city.

I’m often asked by friends, “Who would want to live downtown? There is nothing to do, and there isn’t even a grocery store.” I respond that plenty of people want to live downtown—we have the studies to prove it. More importantly, downtown apartments have very low vacancy rates. I also let them know there is plenty to do, and list off all the venues and various activities.

Then I ask how far they usually travel to get groceries—and whether they go to the Peoria RiverFront Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings. Often the response is, “I am guessing less than five miles; and, yes, we go downtown to the farmers’ market often and love it.” To this I reply, “If you live downtown, there are at least four places to buy your groceries within a mile, and you can walk to the farmers’ market every Saturday morning.”

I simply have a different perspective of downtown than some of my friends. Likewise, people from outside the area start with no perspective of our downtown—or only know what people have told them.

Fulfilling Potential

Tia Bailey of Seattle, Washington, is one of those people. Just last fall, she came to Peoria to help a friend renovate a small property in the Uplands neighborhood. While here, she stumbled upon the Winkler Lofts building at 725 SW Washington and a light bulb went off. She immediately recognized the potential to turn that building into what is now: Loftie Spaces and Events, which boasts 32 AirBnB rental units, event and meeting rooms, a coffee shop, gift shop, and even a “selfie station” room. As Tia announced on her Facebook page: “We’re new in town here in Peoria, IL and are so excited to bring something new and fun to the Downtown Warehouse District!”

Others with a different perspective of Downtown Peoria include developers and investor groups from Chicago and St. Louis, who see great potential in buildings like the former Builders Warehouse, Used But Nice Store and the Fredman Building, all on SW Washington Street. In the very near-future, we will see these buildings transformed into mixed-use residential, retail and commercial spaces. The same will happen with historic buildings on SW Adams—including the Mitchell Fabric and Federal buildings, now referred to as Adams & Oak. The glass is more than half-full; it’s about to overflow in the Warehouse District and spill into the Central Business District.

With incentives such as historic tax credits (HTC), Rivers Edge Redevelopment Zone funds (RERZ) and tax increment financing (TIF), developers have a tremendous opportunity to make their dreams come true. So do those who choose to live, work and play in Downtown Peoria. What is your perspective? Is Downtown Peoria half-empty, half-full or overflowing? Come downtown and lift a pint to see for yourself! PM