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The July meeting of the Peoria Medical and Technology District Commission was long but very productive. The initial concepts for the West Main Street Corridor are beginning to emerge. The consultants, Richard Huffman from Wallace Roberts & Todd, and Vernon George of Hammer Siler George, began outlining their ideas for the corridor that will become the identifiable place for our 21st century knowledge economy.

The general concept is to divide West Main Street into three nodes. It's approximately one mile from UICOMP to Bradley University. The approximately one-third mile closest to Bradley would be identified as the University node; the one-third mile surrounding the new incubator would be identified as the technology node; and the remaining one-third mile surrounding UICOMP and the hospitals would be identified as the medical node. This concept is similar to what both consultants have previously done in Richmond, Va., where Virginia Commonwealth University anchors its technology corridor.

This concept aligns with our original purpose: to create a quality of life, learning, and research environment integrated with the neighborhoods, providing a lifestyle to attract and retain talented, creative people to build our future. While some people thought scientists would be walking up and down Main Street, that was never the intention. Nor was it the intention to have incubators lining the entire mile of West Main Street.

Another point emphasized was the importance of a non-governmental organization to lead the implementation efforts. Numerous communities that have done what we're attempting to do have a unique body empowered to move quickly to implement their plans. Technically, the commission was given the responsibility, but our consultants don't believe we're the appropriate body. We'll meet with city officials and other key groups to identify the best mechanism to effectuate our plan. Certainly, the commission, along with the Neighborhood Advisory Council, wants to oversee the broad development of the plans ultimately approved by the City Council.

The consultants outlined various economic development programs that we'll discuss in the months ahead. In particular, a marketing theme centered on the "convergence of technology" was outlined by George. His assessment was that with Caterpillar, NCAUR, Bradley University, and UICOMP, we have a "convergence of technology" that's unique. Everyone markets a technology park or incubator. He felt the convergence of technology we're developing in Peoria has the potential to differentiate us in this competitive marketplace.

Within the next several weeks, each commission member will receive an initial draft of the comprehensive master plan. We'll review it individually and provide feedback to the consultants. We'll have our first public discussion of the comprehensive master plan for the District soon. We want-and expect-considerable public input. We're going to build as much consensus as possible for our plans. The next several months will be very exciting; now the real fun begins. IBI

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