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A Publication of WTVP

On May 5, we embarked on an exciting journey when we held the first organizational meeting for the newly created Heart of Peoria Commission.

In June 2002, we conducted a charrette under the guidance of Duany Plater-Zyberk (DPZ), led by Andres Duany. DPZ is a new urbanist firm populated with architects and talented designers who specialize in urban design and revitalizing older communities. They supplied 13 designers, spent approximately two weeks at a series of meetings in which they visited with 1,000 attendees, and came up with a comprehensive plan. This will allow us to revitalize the oldest part of our community, centered downtown, which we're calling the Heart of Peoria, and the adjacent neighborhoods up river and down river and up Main Street toward Bradley.

They introduced a number of key principles or concepts we'll need to follow in implementing the HOP Plan: more people living downtown, more pedestrian friendly, more 24/7, and more urban in character.

We would also like to create some neighborhood centers to revitalize some of the older neighborhoods. It was also suggested we make Water Street a very pedestrian-friendly street. DPZ introduced the concept of a "transect," which is a system of classification of human habitats based on a conceptual continuum from the most rural to the most urban conditions. They also introduced the concept for the zoning of a smart code that, given time and a lot of work, might allow us to substantially change our basic zoning code. In addition, they had suggestions for revamping building codes and changing ordinances that would encourage redevelopment.

After a number of redrafts, with a lot of input from the public, the plan was adopted by the City Council, in principle, December 9, 2003. The Council passed an ordinance creating the Heart of Peoria Commission January 13, and the Heart of Peoria Commission was appointed April 20. I received more than 160 recommendations from various sources for participation in the Heart of Peoria Commission, so it was difficult to reduce the list to 13 members. I've appointed Ron Budzinski as the chair, and the members include Beth Akeson, John Blossom Jr., Tim Criss, Diana Hall, Kert Huber, Tom Leiter, Michael Maloof, J.P. O'Brien, Bill Springer, Pat Sullivan, Dan Van Buskirk Jr., and Bill Washkuhn.

This is a very dynamic group of developers, lawyers, entrepreneurs, and other business people. They embody a great deal of energy and experience. Their charge will be to organize and prioritize the various projects contained in the Heart of Peoria Plan. However, they're encouraged to use it as a base or guideline, as opposed to something to which they must be totally bound.

Several things evolved out of the Heart of Peoria Plan. For example, a research park was suggested in the Main Street corridor near Bradley. This has resulted in the development of a Medical/Technology District. They indicated the Sears block should perhaps contain a regional museum and commercial, mixed-use development. This is in progress, where Caterpillar will have a major facility-which will be a tremendous draw to the area-and will be located next to Lakeview Regional Museum and some commercial development.

A number of interesting and exciting things have occurred in the area. WTVP has opened its new station. Approximately 100 housing units are being developed in various parts of the downtown area to provide housing at affordable monthly rates. We've also approved a new farmer's market.

It'll be important for the Heart of Peoria Commission to interface with other commissions and entities such as the Civic Center; Pere Marquette; and, if it's redeveloped, the Madison Theatre. The commission will provide periodic reports to the City Council and will expect to have a great deal of input from the public as these plans develop. Stay tuned. IBI

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