East Peoria/Downtown 2010 represents a new beginning for the City of East Peoria. From its humble inception as Blue Town (named as such due to blue smocks worn by the French settlers), East Peoria has long been known as a blue-collar town, essentially populated by employees of Caterpillar and other manufacturing businesses. While that connection certainly still exists today, times have changed, and the economy for the city, as well as the region, has diversified.
One of the elements the city has always lacked is an identifiable central business district. At one time, several decades ago, a cluster of commercial structures was located in the area known as the Four Corners (Washington and Main streets). Most of those buildings are now gone—replaced by the City’s earlier redevelopment efforts culminating in Town Centres I and II.
When one thinks of other communities here in central Illinois and around the country, most great communities have some sort of identifiable core with a positive image. Great cities like Chicago and San Francisco have very identifiable skylines and commercial centers. On a smaller, more local scale, one may think of the quaint and historic downtowns of Metamora or Washington. East Peoria lacks this identifiable core, and the EP 2010 project provides the unique opportunity to plan and develop that core from the ground up. It is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the city and all who are involved in the effort!
The opportunity to build from the ground up allows city leaders to look at all aspects of needed infrastructure, not only planning for mainstays like roads, water and sewer, but also for elements such as IT. Additionally, the city has the opportunity to combine more traditional design elements like parking on the street, buildings fronting on sidewalks and residential mixed with commercial development, alongside “big box” retail. This allows for pedestrian-friendly development while providing for ample off-street parking options.
Another important component of this development will be public space. This element is crucial to the success of any new development, as it encourages people to gather and interact. Once again, in thinking of great American cities, there are those that have great public spaces, like New York’s Rockefeller Center or Chicago’s Daly Plaza. East Peoria’s new public space may possibly contain some of these same attractive elements, including walkable spaces with plenty of places to sit, an attractive fountain, an ice skating rink and an area for outdoor concerts.
Lastly, this new downtown for East Peoria will be a great destination, not only for its residents but for those from throughout the region. This is a key component when considering the mix of businesses to be located on the site, as well as accessibility to it. While this area will give East Peoria a new and identifiable core, it will also offer opportunities for everyone in central Illinois to enjoy. iBi