A Publication of WTVP

On June 18, the Peoria Medical/Technology District Commission, Mayor David Ransburg, 2nd District Councilwoman Marcella Teplitz, city officials, and other interested individuals visited the Illinois Medical District (IMD) in Chicago. Our purpose was to gain insight and ideas and learn from the experience of a medical district that's long been established and successful. The IMD was founded in 1942, primarily to address increasing health care needs for the western part of the city. In the early 1980s, the IMD began a transformation that expanded its role to include technology start up companies. The present incubator at the Chicago Technology Park was started in 1985; it was one of the first technology incubators in the United States.

The IMD has many similarities to the Peoria Medical/Technology District (PMTD). The significant difference is that it's a legal entity with its own powers, and there are no neighborhoods within the District boundaries; they're surrounded by neighborhoods.

One of the most visible lessons learned was the clear delineation of the boundaries of the IMD. Visitors know the moment they step into the district. It's well highlighted and marked with street signs and banners announcing the location. The institutions within the IMD market themselves as part of the IMD. City maps illuminate the IMD. The PMDC will strongly consider the importance of marketing the area in its plans for the future.

The second significant lesson-and one we've already incorporated-was the importance of constant communication with the surrounding neighborhoods. In our case, the neighborhoods are part of the district and have numerous opportunities for input. The PMTD Advisory Council must recommend approval of the comprehensive master plan to the commission to be forwarded to the city council for final approval. The importance of taking the time necessary to build consensus for the design of the district was stressed. The IMD attributes much of the success and long-term development plans of the Chicago Technology Park to the initial conversations they had with the neighborhoods almost 20 years ago. IMD officials are very proud that they've had no problems, concerns, or lawsuits from the neighborhoods surrounding them since inception of the IMD.

The necessity of having the second and third stage facilities ready for use as the initial start up companies began to progress was a valuable third lesson. The Peoria Innovation Center is a first stage incubator, where ideas are encouraged to graduate to the second stage as soon as possible. Presently, our region doesn't have a second stage facility for a company to graduate to, nor is there a third stage, or production facility-two issues we'll have to address as part of our plans.

The story related about the importance of second and third stage facilities is Amgen. Amgen actually started in Chicago as a first stage incubator. When it was ready to move forward, the IMD didn't have the appropriate second stage facility, so Amgren relocated to California and has since become a huge success.

There were numerous ideas and comments made throughout the day. We're better aware of the challenges ahead but more confident of our ability to address them. I believe we returned to Peoria in a better position to meet our ambitious goals.

In our next meeting, the commission will hear a presentation from Phillips Swager Associates regarding the design features of the Peoria Innovation Center. As the anchor project, this facility design is critically important to the future look of West Main Street and to the future of the District. If all goes well, our PMTD will be as visually and architecturally distinct as the IMD. IBI