I mentioned the Heart of Peoria Commission (HOPC) in last month’s article as an area for continued focus and direction from the council in 2006. I recently named Bill Washkuhn the new chairman of the HOPC; I’m confident his leadership and enthusiasm for this commission will help them make huge strides forward this year. Many of you have heard about the HOPC, and I’m going to give you more background, as you’ll undoubtedly be hearing much more about their activities this year. Thanks to Chairman Washkuhn for helping assemble this information.
The HOPC was created by the Peoria City Council to explore and make recommendations for implementation of the Heart of Peoria Plan prepared by Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co., in conjunction with input from Peoria citizens. The HOPC has been very active in our two major downtown projects from its inception, those being the Civic Center revitalization and the museum blocks. HOPC initiated 22 suggested New Urbanism concepts to be incorporated into the expansion and revitalization project at the Civic Center. HOPC has attempted to promote the principles of the New Urbanism in the projects on the museum as an example of what can be accomplished in the Peoria downtown core and elsewhere. They’ve had several productive meetings with the architects, Caterpillar, and Lakeview.
The HOPC and its various committees also have aggressively pursued its other responsibilities, particularly noted as follows:
• Communications. A recently formed committee seeking to develop increased communication with citizens, the council, other city commissions/committees, staff, and neighborhood groups as to the activities of HOPC, as well as soliciting feedback and input from them.
• Warehouse District. Meeting with stakeholders of property within the district to solicit input and buy-in to the concepts of New Urbanism for the development of the properties.
• Transportation. This committee is moving forward rapidly with Pat Sullivan as the new chair. Looking at Washington Street issues (on-street parking, street-scaping, and traffic); Adams, Jefferson, Perry, and Glen Oak issues; and seeking significant funds through grants and legislative sources for study and development.
• Neighborhoods. Dealing with District 150 regarding neighborhood schools and their optimal utilization to stabilize neighborhoods. This involvement will be vital given the importance and needs of our schools.
• Form-Based Code/Design. Following council direction, the first undertaking of this committee was the creation of the Neighborhood Commercial Ordinance. In Peoria, there are residentially zoned buildings originally designed and built for commercial or both commercial and residential use in older neighborhoods, primarily built from 1900 to 1950. These buildings have been neglected, abandoned, and/or fallen into disrepair and therefore have a detrimental impact on our neighborhoods. The charge was to draft an ordinance that would promote appropriate uses in harmony with the surrounding residential neighborhoods to permit and encourage revitalization of these structures. The committee then focused on the study of what a form-based code is, what it can and can’t do, concepts of overlays, parallel codes, and other issues to make it user-friendly, attractive, defensible, administratively simple, and cost effective. It also co-sponsored meetings with the Warehouse District stakeholders and held multiple workshops over three days for divergent groups with outside expertise from Ferrell Madden Associates of Washington, D.C., which proved very informative and educational.
• Ad Hoc Committee. Consisting of representatives from staff, Zoning Commission, Planning Commission, Med-Tech Commission, and Form-Based Code/Design Committee. With budgetary support from the council for 2006, this committee is meeting on an intense schedule to draft and finalize a request for qualifications to solicit professional services for developing vision master plans and related form-based code for Peoria’s Warehouse District and two neighborhood commercial corridors along Prospect and Sheridan roads—and provide a general form-based regulating plan overlay for the rest of the Heart of Peoria Plan area.
This year looks to be a very busy and progressive one for our community. Thanks to the HOPC and all of our boards and commissions for their volunteer work for the betterment of our community. IBI