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Performing arts pavilion project seeking new partners, location

Pavilion in the Park President Sara Connor-James announces the search for a new partner and location for the pavilion at a press conference Monday.
Collin Schopp
Pavilion in the Park President Sara Connor-James announces the search for a new partner and location for the pavilion at a news conference on Monday.

The nonprofit Pavilion in the Park is looking for a new location for its 18-acre project, after the Peoria Park District Board voted against any further consideration last Wednesday night.

The planned 1,500-seat Donovan Park Pavilion, a performance space for community arts groups, was originally proposed to the Peoria Park District Board in 2020. Pavilion in the Parkwithdrew the proposal in October 2021, after board president Robert Johnson and vice president Joyce Harant voiced they would not support the project.

The project came back before the Park District Board in November, before the board voted unanimously to end discussions.

Harant said public input against developing the space was a significant factor in the decision. Pavilion in the Park president Sara Connor-James claims the public outcry was the result of misinformation surrounding the project.

“The people of Peoria yearn for and deserve better,” she said at a Monday news press conference. “They deserve leadership that puts growth for all residents of the city in the front, not the desires of less than one half of 1% of the population.”

As a result, Pavilion in the Park is looking for any location or partner interested in housing the arts pavilion project, even outside of Peoria.

“We're inviting people to come forward and offer us what they have,” said Connor-James. “We have a few things that are on the table that we've initiated discussions, but that's too premature, to say where.”

The overall design for the pavilion will stay the same.

“We've already expended a great deal of effort and resources on the design of the building, on the design of the whole project,” Connor-James said. “So we're not going to go back to square one.”

Whatever partner or location steps forward for the project, Connor-James said it represents jobs, opportunities and an investment in the future.

“Our goal is to make a positive impact in the central Illinois region,” she said. “If Peoria cannot step up to the table, and make this happen, then we have no choice but to go with people who have vision and want to see their communities uplifted and, and opportunities for young children.”

If Pavilion in the Park finds a partner to move forward, Connor-James said the venue could be operational in two years.

Collin Schopp is a reporter at WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.