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On September 16, more than 200 residents and city staff met in the Bradley Student Center to hear Richard Huffman, of Wallace Roberts & Todd, present ideas and proposals regarding the Peoria Medical and Technology District. Huffman's presentation was divided into three components: the vision; the role of public, private, and institutional investment; and the architectural design concepts.

Beginning with vision, Huffman outlined how Main Street could be developed into three nodes: university/retail, technology, and medical. The university/retail node would develop the one-third mile on Main Street near Bradley University. The medical node would develop the one-third mile near the University of Illinois College of Medicine-Peoria, Methodist, and OSF. Both of these nodes would gravitate toward the technology node in the center one-third of Main Street. Most of the attendees seemed at ease with this concept. Many were excited about the idea of student housing on Main Street co-existing with housing for young professionals. The neighborhood participants were supportive and positive about attempts to minimize student housing in their backyard.

The second component briefly addressed investments. With regard to public investments, the use of tax-investment financing and Community Development Block Grants were outlined. Private investment was certainly encouraged, and it's hoped Caterpillar will take a greater presence in the Main Street corridor. The medical community would support medical and research development in combination with individual neighborhood projects to help grow the area. Particular attention was emphasized regarding District 150 schools and the opportunity to link them into the development.

Huffman emphasized several times the institutional investments and commitments that need to be made and cited numerous examples from other communities. Specifically mentioned was the need for the five institutional partners to strengthen their presence along Main Street and the need to establish a policy to support and encourage professionals recruited to Peoria by the respective institutions to live in the surrounding neighborhoods.

The end of the evening involved a lively discussion on architectural design concepts. Huffman offered examples of various designs of buildings within each node and the various opportunities that could be considered. All three nodes were looked at from maximizing and minimizing types of changes and renovations to the Main Street area. Various housing designs, mixed use designs, shopping area designs, and the advantages and disadvantages of each were outlined. This particular part of the charrette had very good comments, interactions, and feedback.

The charrette accomplished its purpose, with very strong dialogue and comments being freely shared. The majority of people attending stayed for a large portion of the three-hour meeting and seemed to be very enthusiastic with the exchange of cordial and positive dialogue.

At our next meeting October 20, we'll discuss the initial draft of the Peoria Medical and Technology District plan. This meeting will be the first dialogue among commission members regarding the plan. The commission will then distribute the first draft of this plan for public comment. To obtain a copy, call the Economic Development Office at City Hall; the commission hopes to hear from you. IBI

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