by Mark Thomton
The $135 million Block development.
The Pere Marquette hotel renovation will yield a new Marriott hotel.
With a flurry of development proposals on the table and millions of private and public dollars already pledged, developers and local officials hope to prove that economic recessions don't play in Peoria.
Not many communities are in the position to make grand plans today, but Peoria has gone against the grain with $240 million of development proposals that will dramatically change the look of the downtown area. The momentum is from a convergence of civic, corporate and private investment interest as Peoria-based Caterpillar, a recent voter-approved sales tax increase and numerous private investment firms have already secured a significant portion of the capital required for the projects.
The projects---a seven-acre museum campus and a new luxury hotel attached to the recently renovated convention center---are located only blocks from one another and are scheduled to be constructed concurrently.
"This is a unique story," says Jim Richerson, president and CEO of the Lakeview Museum of Arts and Sciences. "We have a Fortune 50 company partnering with six local cultural institutions to make this happen. Two years down the road, it will be a radically different Peoria."
The museum campus has been dubbed The Block. It will be developed on a defunct 7-acre property that was once a Sears warehouse location. The Block will include the Peoria Riverfront Museum and The Caterpillar Experience, a $41 million interactive museum completely funded by Caterpillar.