Peoria takes new steps in revitalization of Old Town

Peoria is working toward revitalizing its downtown-area. [Independent Newsmedia/Philip Haldiman]
By Philip Haldiman, Independent Newsmedia

City officials are moving forward in revitalizing and branding Old Town Peoria.

Planning Director Chris Jacques said next steps will involve two components — a comprehensive look at redevelopment options for the area and a branding and marketing strategy for the Old Town core.

A $146,450 contract was finalized with consultant Michael Baker International to work on the strategy to redevelop and brand the area.

Councilwoman Vicki Hunt, who represents the area, said she feels very positive about the prospects ahead for Old Town.

“It has been a real collaborative effort. I am so happy to see there is a plan, and that it is somewhat malleable,” she said. “We have the consultant hired. That is a big deal and I think we are on the right path to seeing something accomplished. I would have liked for it to have been yesterday, of course, but I  couldn’t be happier. We’re going a get Old Town whipped into shape.”

The redevelopment strategy to attract businesses to the area will focus on the area bounded by 83rd Avenue, Washington Street, Jefferson Street and 83rd Drive.

The consultant will begin a market analysis this month to determine the highest and best use for city-owned Old Town parcels, with a final report expected to be complete this summer.

The report will include market-based redevelopment options, assess interim condition and adaptive re-use possibilities, as well as technical recommendations related to infrastructure, zoning, parking and building/fire codes.

Mr. Jacques said  the report will help ignite the block redevelopment and further catalyze reinvestment in the area. There will also be recommendations for property disposition and any code changes.

Planning Manager Adam Pruett said the city is asking the consultant to not only analyze market data, but also the regulatory framework in the city to make development easier.

“This analysis is intended to detect unforeseen barriers to entry, such as zoning and building codes that make adaptive re-use of buildings and/or the redevelopment of Old Town particularly challenging, which could discourage development activity in the area,” Mr. Pruett said.

A  draft of the branding report is expected this fall, covering the larger Old Town core, bounded by Peoria Avenue, Grand Avenue, 85th Avenue and Monroe Street. It will include a list of branding elements, including signs, monuments, street furniture, landscaping, and possible art.

It will be specific in terms of  location, number and cost, as well as the implementation of the branding.

“This branding effort will be for the larger Old Town core … It will help guide future improvements in terms of scale, timing, placement and cost,” Mr. Pruett said.

The city has spent nearly $800,000 to revitalize the area, with about 1.2 acres set aside for new developments. Costs include the purchase of  Pentecostal Church of God, 8326 W. Jefferson Street, and the property owned by Abel-Patterson/Peoria LLC, 8318 and 8320 W. Jefferson St., and Kosier’s Hardware, 10440 N. 83rd Ave.

The intent of acquiring the properties is to create “shovel-ready” sites in an effort to better position revitalization of the area.

Mr. Jacques said to get to this point in the process, city officials took a number of actions, ranging from adding more city events to improving visibility, as well as the abatement of some structures.
“If developers want to come here, we want to make it easier for them to do so,” he said. “All this together is meant to improve Old Town.”

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