A Publication of WTVP

The message from Urban Planner David Rust, who has been to Peoria twice to speak about growth cell strategies, is clear; Peoria needs to learn from the mistakes made by others.

The current growth cell strategies need to be re-examined. They are designed to be complementary to city strategies. Without a clear city strategy, growth cell efforts are ineffective. The plan for downtown and riverfront development needs to be the first priority—then growth cell strategies can be developed accordingly. Growth cell strategies exist primarily to attract new jobs and businesses that will ultimately support the development of road, infrastructure and neighborhoods in the city.

A major concern is growth cell strategies encourage movement, but not real growth. For example, Bergners recently announced they would build a second location at The Shoppes at Grand Prairie. This potentially could result in the closing of the Sheridan Village store—the major anchor of this venerable shopping center. While one can argue that one purpose of the growth cell strategies is to keep business that would relocate out of Peoria to remain in Peoria, there is the reality that when a business relocates from one part of Peoria to another, no real growth occurs— the definition of urban sprawl.

Our growth cell strategy is also questionable with respect to competing against other neighboring communities. One may argue having these growth cell strategies allows us to compete with open spaces like Bloomington and Springfield and others; however, this is a fallacy. The lack of planned development and strategy in growth cells will lead to further deterioration of the city. The competing communities will utilize our decaying infrastructure and decaying city as a reason not to locate to Peoria.
Part of revisiting growth cell strategies requires preparing contingency plans that address situations like Bergners. The area surrounding Sheridan Village today is at best stable (if not in early decline) and very vulnerable to such a significant change. Consequently, the area around Sheridan Village is likely to enter into a period of destabilization.

I have heard from many that downtown issues used to stop at Forest Hill, then War Memorial and now it is up to Lake and Glen Avenues. It will proceed up to Dunlap and the growth cells. The increasing social costs in those neighborhoods, decline of property values, increase in taxes, and potential increase in crime and poverty in the area surrounding Sheridan Village, will cost much more than any economic gain to be derived.

It is not my intention to criticize Bergners; every business needs to make decisions in its own best economic interest. Unfortunately, an outcome of "progress" in a capitalistic society is the destruction and disruption left behind. The continued development of growth cells without proper planning consistent with the development of the City of Peoria will lead to undesirable results. IBI