Revitalizing the Heights

by Matt Fick, Village of Peoria Heights
Photography by Chris Chandler

A new plan is set to create a roadmap for future development in Peoria Heights.

Earlier this year, the Village of Peoria Heights was fortunate to receive a transportation-related planning grant, which it used to hire Houseal Lavigne Associates to spearhead a study that will help create a Corridor Planning and Revitalization Plan.

Now in the process of being finalized, the Corridor Planning and Revitalization Plan will assess community transportation and connectivity needs, connectivity improvement options, implementation costs, existing and proposed land uses, and streetscape and zoning code modifications along the major transportation and commercial corridors of Glen Avenue, Prospect Avenue and War Memorial Drive.

Improving Transportation Corridors
Peoria Heights is located in the heart of central Illinois. Surrounded on three sides by the City of Peoria and on the other by the Illinois River, municipal boundary expansion and greenfield development opportunities are scarce. This causes the Village to focus on leveraging its existing assets to encourage redevelopment and rehabilitation of commercial and residential structures. A key component to this strategy is improving and enhancing the physical condition and connectivity of the infrastructure along the major transportation corridors.

Traffic counts along the three corridors in the study area range from 8,000 to 30,000 cars per day, making them some of the most heavily traveled roadways in the metropolitan area. While sidewalks and lighted intersections with designated crosswalks exist in some locations, large portions of these corridors are framed by aging infrastructure, wide roadways, which make pedestrian crossings difficult, crumbling sidewalks and line-of-sight restrictions.

The Village is looking for recommendations that will help control traffic speed and pedestrian movement to better accentuate its downtown and strengthen its commercial and residential areas, which, when properly exposed, will become prime candidates for redevelopment. These recommendations—such as the addition of sidewalks throughout the study area—will help link downtown, the schools and the Peoria Park District’s Rock Island Greenway Trail to promote the safe movement for all citizens, including children who walk along Glen Avenue to access the schools.

Connectivity and Sense of Place
While our downtown is considered a travel destination with its unique shopping and fine dining, vast sections of underutilized residential and commercial properties remain within the study area. The Corridor Planning and Revitalization Plan will look to connect these areas through themed streetscaping and unified development regulations that create a true sense of place and serve to attract new business, housing and tourism. It will also push expansion of the Central Business District north and south along Prospect, and potentially down both Glen Avenue and War Memorial Drive.

The Village has already made a substantial financial commitment to community revitalization by creating multiple Tax Increment Finance Districts in the study area, as well as a Business Development District, and by participating in the Illinois Enterprise Zone Program.

The Trefzger’s Bakery relocation is a perfect example of the type of redevelopment project the Village is looking to encourage. This well-publicized endeavor involves the relocation of Trefzger’s Bakery into an underutilized warehouse that was on the verge of being torn down. It took a collaborative effort among several entities to make it a reality, but the end result will be a beautifully restored 36,000-square-foot brick building located along the regional biking trail in the heart of downtown Peoria Heights that will serve as an attraction for many years to come.

The economic development tools are in place to make the Heights an attractive community to work with, catalyst revitalization projects are underway or in the planning stages, and the roadmap for future commercial development is about to be printed. Keep an eye on Peoria Heights… things are getting interesting! iBi

Matt Fick is Administrator for the Village of Peoria Heights.

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