I had a wonderful opportunity to visit our friends in East Peoria November 10, when I was invited to attend a ceremony near the riverside at the sight of the future Embassy Suites Hotel and Convention Center. Unfortunately, Mayor Dobbleaire wasn’t able to attend, but Commissioners Harold Fogelmark and Jim Bevard were there, along with City Administrator Tom Brimberry, Dennis Triggs, and many prominent members of our local business community—Henry Holling and Mark Johnson from Caterpillar, Don Welch from the Hotel Pere Marquette, Steve Powell and staff from the Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, and representatives from our local building trades just to name a few. It was very encouraging to be welcomed and be a part of the excitement surrounding this project.
Equally thrilling was the opportunity to meet billionaire John Q. Hammons. Mr. Hammons is 86 years old, and he worked the crowd with amazing skill. From listening to him discuss the market conditions that influenced the timing and financing of the Hotel & Convention Center, I can tell you that he’s a remarkable man.
There was some interesting discussion that this project could have, should have, would have happened on the Peoria side of the river a long time ago “if only…” You can fill in the blanks with a multitude of reasons. But the bottom line is that for a multitude of reasons, it didn’t happen. There’s something else, though. Perhaps the argument could be made that even though a lot of time has gone by, during which the former Sears block has stood empty, we’re going to have a some outstanding projects arise from the area that will rival any development proposed for that block over the years. Caterpillar’s Visitor’s Center and the new museum are both legacy projects that will be landmarks in our city for a long time.
The Embassy Suites project that Gary Matthews and East Peoria personnel have put together will be an outstanding anchor with a world-class view of Peoria’s riverfront. Good for them, and good for us. A Hammons hotel will be a first rate property that will only raise the bar for all hotels in the area, which will be a “win” for the hundreds of thousands of visitors who visit our city every year. When the Civic Center expansion is completed, allowing us to offer an expanded and updated facility to newer and larger groups, we’ll need the extra rooms. I’m encouraged to hear that other major hotels are looking at future opportunities to locate in or near downtown Peoria. These are all signs of a bright future for the work we’re doing to bring more business and development to our city and the region.
As 2005 draws to a close, I’d like to congratulate those working hard to make the entire central Illinois community a better place to live. No one city is going to get it done on its own. The new sense of collaboration we’re beginning to see will produce outstanding results for all of us.
Wishing you a safe, peaceful, and relaxing holiday season with your family and friends. IBI