Transforming the Region

From new construction to small-scale development to historic preservation, an abundance of exciting projects are underway and in the works.

Breaking Ground in Peoria Heights
In May 2019, KDB Group broke ground on The Atrium in Peoria Heights, a new boutique hotel that will complement the village’s fine dining and shopping corridor. Photo: Jeffery Noble

Led by a rapidly expanding medical community and a burgeoning arts, entertainment and culinary scene, Greater Peoria is in the midst of a 21st-century makeover. A decade-long wave of development in Peoria’s Warehouse District has revived the downtown core, while significant investments in Peoria Heights are creating a boutique destination centered around fine dining and the arts.

The $130 million development of OSF HealthCare’s new headquarters is leading a wave of investment in downtown Peoria. With the approval of state and federal historic tax credits, work is well underway on rehabilitation of the 114-year-old building, an iconic structure slated for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The purchase of an additional building from Caterpillar Inc. will further expand the healthcare system’s operational footprint in the downtown.

Bradley University
The new business and engineering complex at Bradley University

OSF HealthCare is also leading a  multi-pronged, collaborative effort to build the Peoria Innovation Hub. Strategically located near its new downtown headquarters, the project will catalyze multidisciplinary solutions in the areas of healthcare, manufacturing and agriculture—while spurring long-term economic activity and job creation. OSF has also joined forces with Core Construction to form POINTCORE, a joint venture aligning the two powerhouse firms, which recently opened its doors in Peoria’s Warehouse District.

At the corner of Spalding Avenue and Monroe, a brand-new Ronald McDonald House is on track to open in the fall of 2019. The four-story, 40,000-square-foot structure will serve families with children receiving care at any area medical facility—including OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois and UnityPoint Health.

With a world-class medical district at its center, Peoria’s downtown renaissance continues with no end in sight. Much of Peoria’s downtown was added to the National Register of Historic Places in late 2018—a designation that’s already sparking exciting, new plans.

From new distilleries and arts venues to axe throwing and escape games, Peoria’s Warehouse District is thriving with new energy. Recent years have seen an expansion of downtown housing, while growing commercial interest is creating an entertainment and retail corridor. The Downtown Development Corporation is working diligently to attract investment and bring new urban living options to young professionals and other downtown residents.

Billed as Peoria’s first and only craft distillery, Black Band Distillery is bringing distilling back to the Whiskey City. Housed in a renovated building on Southwest Adams, the new distillery is expected to open in late 2019. Across the street, another historic building will soon be home to a famous game company. The Kansas-based Pop-A-Shot, which produces and sells electronic basketball arcade games, is currently relocating its headquarters to the heart of Peoria’s Warehouse District.

Alongside an explosion of public murals and sculptures, new entertainment options are attracting residents and visitors alike. The opening of First Ascent Peoria brought a climbing gym to Peoria’s downtown, while Gone Axe Throwing and Gone in 60 Escape Games introduced Peoria to the hot sport of axe throwing and the immersive experience of escape rooms.

From Bearded Owl Brewing to Thyme Kitchen + Craft Beer, there are plenty of fresh, new settings for dining and drinks, while downtown retail is also taking hold. Sous Chef has brought a specialty grocery store to the neighborhood, while the Latin-themed Casa de Arte features drinks, art and live music in a gallery setting.

The Center from Baldovin
A rendering of “The Center” depicts the beginnings of a retail corridor in Peoria’s Warehouse District.

All over downtown Peoria, new condos and loft apartments offer the desired features of urban living: open floor plans, exposed brick walls, vaulted ceilings, hardwood floors and historic architectural details, plus all the modern amenities. The Sealtest Building, Murray Place, Cooperage 214, Persimmon Lofts, Winkler Lofts, Urban Depot Hotel Building and Marquette Apartments are housing a wave of new residents—a trend expected to continue for the foreseeable future.

With plans for 124 apartments, the redevelopment of the Builder’s Warehouse building on SW Washington is the Warehouse District’s largest residential project to date. Across from Dozer Park, the long-vacant Julian Hotel is being renovated into luxury apartments with ground-floor commercial space, while plans for the Chic building call for a mixed-use space with restaurants, retail and residential components.

Another recent project known as “The Block” rehabilitated five historic buildings on the 1000 block of SW Washington into a destination space anchored by Venue Chisca, a banquet facility with a French Quarter feel. Over on SW Adams, the former Grawey building will include retail suites and new storefronts near Zion Coffee Bar, Rambler and Sugar—the beginnings of a downtown retail corridor.

Elsewhere, the City of Peoria is seeking proposals for the redevelopment of a number of warehouse buildings, while the historic Hotel Pere Marquette will soon see multi-million-dollar upgrades. Meanwhile, a developer’s recent purchase of the Scottish Rite Cathedral and interest in preserving the Peoria Women’s Club could revive downtown Peoria’s bygone theater district.

Scottish Rite Cathedral
The renovation of Scottish Rite Cathedral is just one of many projects underway by developer Kim Blickenstaff.

Kim Blickenstaff is a California-based entrepreneur who grew up in central Illinois and recently returned to share his success with his hometown. His slew of development projects announced over the last year will not only rescue several historic structures from the wrecking ball—they are destined to reshape the face of the region.

Blickenstaff’s purchase of the Scottish Rite is a first step in renovating the beautiful, architecturally significant landmark and bringing it back to life as a performing arts center. Just three blocks away, the developer and his team are helping the Peoria Women’s Club restore its historic second-floor theater, which once hosted world-famous authors and traveling performers.

Outside of downtown Peoria, Blickenstaff’s team is focused on a number of projects in Peoria Heights. The former Heights library is now home to the Betty Jayne Brimmer Center for the Performing Arts, named for the developer’s mother, a performer in the Big Band Era. Just up the road, his plans to build a 55-room boutique hotel on Prospect Road are in the works—with additional designs for loft-style apartments, shops and restaurants fleshing out a comprehensive vision of creating a boutique destination.

Even before Blickenstaff’s return to central Illinois, Peoria Heights was experiencing a renaissance as a “culinary corridor” and hub for specialty retail. The $5.5 million Trefzger’s Bakery project—which repurposed a historic warehouse as a bustling center of activity—catalyzed a wave of development that continues unabated. From the new Twelve Bar lounge to expanded retail and restaurant space at Heritage Square, the Heights’ charming downtown is playing host to live concerts, festivals and other community events.

With the installation of public sculptures and creation of an art walk, a newfound focus on the arts is expanding possibilities in the village, while the addition of streetscape seating along Prospect Road expanded al fresco dining from the sidewalk into the street itself. The recently announced Zion Social will soon join this thriving business community, with a focus on craft cocktails, specialty coffee, small plates and a unique social experience.

The construction of a $100 million business and engineering complex at Bradley University promises to bring new opportunities to Peoria. The 270,000-square-foot facility—which unites the Caterpillar College of Engineering and Technology and Foster College of Business under one roof—is set to open in the fall of 2019, with continued development through 2021.

All over the region, instances of creative, adaptive reuse are reshaping the community. At Northwoods Mall, a new entertainment center, a furniture showroom and multiple creative coworking spaces have taken the place of traditional mall anchors, bringing new life to the aging retail site. In north Peoria, plans for a parcel of Peoria Park District property near Donovan Park call for an indoor/outdoor mixed-use development with offices, cafés, coffee shops, a winery, apartments and more.

Across the river, the multi-phased development of Levee Park continues in the heart of East Peoria’s Levee District. The three-acre parcel, already home to a reading garden, will eventually have a water feature, public art and terraced seating for special events and festivals—presenting the new, iconic face of East Peoria: green, growing and family-centered. PP

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