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Vacant houses make way for South Peoria's POTENT Gratitude Park

Tim Shelley
JIMAX crews demolished three vacant houses adjacent to Sovereign Grace Missionary Baptist Church along W. Martin St. on Peoria's South Side. The land will soon become the POTENT Gratitude Park. It's this year's BUILD Peoria project.

The demolition of three dilapidated houses in the 1500 block of W. Martin St. drew cheers from neighbors and community members early Tuesday morning.

They weren't only celebrating the removal of a blighting presence across the street from the Proctor Center - but progress on a park concept more than two years in the making.

The newly empty land adjacent to Sovereign Grace Missionary Baptist Church is set to become the POTENT Gratitude Park later this summer. The idea for the green space was borne from a discussion over lunch between Jones Bros. Jewelers owner Bob Woolsey, community member Hedy Elliott, and Pastor Alvin Riley, Sr.

"It will be where we plant our flag while our community focuses on what we're grateful for, instead of all the other stuff," Woolsey said.

Woolsey said the acronym "POTENT" stands for six things to be grateful for: people, opportunities, things, experiences, nature, and thoughts.

"Every morning I wake up and utilize the POTENT acronym and find six things I'm grateful for," Woolsey said.

The park will be used for weddings, family reunions, and other events. Woolsey said it will feature a pavilion and a concrete pad, as well as landscaping to beautify the area.

"It'll give families and children something to do, and something to be proud of," said 1st District councilmember Denise Jackson. "And we're just excited that this new redevelopment is coming to the South Side."

Jackson said the park's proximity to the Proctor Center is a plus when coordinating bigger and better events which can draw people from around the city. She said Proctor is already hosting movie nights there.

POTENT Gratitude Park is BUILD Peoria's 2021-22 community project. It will be owned by Sovereign Grace Missionary Baptist Church.

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Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.