Reimagining Fulton Plaza

Last spring, the American Institute of Architects – Peoria Chapter Board met with the City of Peoria to discuss potential locations where the City would be interested in creative solutions for revitalization. During this conversation, Fulton Plaza came up as a future project the City would like to tackle. Information for a design competition was sent out in August, with 22 submissions turned in by the end of November. Six local judges reviewed the anonymous submissions, looking at a range of different approaches to revitalize the corridor. For its design of the “Fulton Woonerf,” Farnsworth Group claimed the Grand Prize and $1,000 in prize money. Here is the narrative of its submission:

Fulton Street historically connected the river to the cultural resources of and surrounding City Hall. Over the last half-century, two schools of thought transformed the function of the 300 block from vehicular-dominant to pedestrian-only. Our solution is a hybrid, combining the best of both into a shared space for pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles. To ensure the space is distinctively Peoria, local culture is woven into the design, culminating in a new arts-collaborative building.

Designed akin to a European woonerf, meandering vehicular lanes with street parking, no raised curbs and strategically positioned landscaping, pedestrian-scale lighting and other site amenities appeal to pedestrians and calm traffic. Permeable pavers—with a pattern matching the museum block—and planters absorb stormwater. The result is a space for art fairs, buskers, sculpture, al fresco dining and public gatherings. The overall design is phased; the first would occur on the 300 block and future phases would extend from the river to Kumpf Boulevard.

In addition to the woonerf, two more interventions occur on the 300 block: levelling the grade at the ICC Thomas Building to allow storefront access from Fulton and the “Peoria Underground” building. The sculptural building is visible from the Civic Center and lower Fulton, creating a visual landmark to connect people between the cultural centers. Housed under an accessible green roof is a public auditorium/gallery space and back-of-house art studios. Lastly, digital art projected onto the AT&T building further signals that Fulton Street is a special place, unique to Peoria.

Nathan Custer of Bivouac Designs was named runner-up in the competition, earning $500 for his depiction of "a farm to fresh urban market... in the heart of the American farmland."

Jason Eich, a Bradley University graduate student, claimed the Student Award and $250 for his concept, also food-related. Eich envisions Fulton Plaza as a permanent “food lot” in which repurposed shipping containers serve as “food trucks” (minus the wheels).

Farnsworth Group will donate its winnings to the Peoria Civic Center for the continued growth of the corner park plaza that houses PNC Winterfest, which is directly adjacent to the design competition location. iBi

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