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Downtown Pekin gymnasium project is dead

Demolition continues Tuesday on the Tobin building in downtown Pekin. The Arcade building next door on Capitol Street was demolished earlier.
Steve Stein
Demolition continues Tuesday on the Tobin building in downtown Pekin. The Arcade building next door on Capitol Street was demolished earlier.

A 13,000-square-foot gymnasium and community center will not be built in downtown Pekin.

The city will buy back a vacant lot behind the Tobin building on Court Street from developer Randy Price for $1,000 -- that's what Price paid the city to buy the lot early last year -- after Price notified city officials last week that he won't do the gymnasium project.

The Pekin City Council on Monday approved the cancellation of a development agreement with Enviro-Safe Refrigerants (Price is vice president of the Pekin company) and the buy-back. The vote was 5-2, with council members Rick Hilst and Lloyd Orrick voting no.

The project's demise did not come as a surprise.

The City Council rejected Price's site plan for the gymnasium in September because the plan did not have a underground vault for storm water retention. Price wanted storm water from his property to flow into the city's combination sewer system.

"We're talking over a million dollars (for the vault)," Price told the council. "I don't want to spend a million dollars just to put a tank in the ground."

Price told the council when he purchased the vacant lot that the gymnasium would "give CPR to downtown."

Tazewell County offered the city up to $25,000 for the lot it instead sold to Price.

The county wants the lot so it can move forward with plans to build a Justice Center annex on the site of the historic Tobin and Arcade buildings.

Those buildings are owned by the county and in the process of being demolished because county officials believe repairs to the buildings would have been too costly.

The demolitions have saddened some Pekin residents, who say the buildings should have been restored.

Vehicles must park at least 6 feet away from a driveway

Parking within six feet of a commercial or residential driveway is prohibited in Pekin following council approval Monday of an ordinance amendment.

Parking formerly was allowed up to the edge of a driveway. The city's Traffic Safety Committee recommended that distance be changed after a resident expressed concerns about backing out of his driveway with vehicles parked close by.

"There was no magic formula we used to come up with six feet," said Pekin Police Chief Sean Ranney. "We want people to be able to safely back out of a driveway, but we didn't want to further limit parking in areas of the city where parking is already limited."

Ranney said the fine for a violation of the six-foot rule is $25, "but our No. 1 goal, as with many city ordinances, is compliance."

Also like many city ordinances, he said, this one will be complaint-driven.

Ranney said most of the calls his department gets about vehicles parked too close to driveways are during sports events that attract big crowds.

The vote on the ordinance amendment was 6-1, with Hilst voting no.

Pekin Outreach Initiative moving its day shelter for the homeless into the Salvation Army building

The Pekin Outreach Initiative plans to convert the unused lower level of the Pekin Salvation Army 360 Life Center at 243 Derby St. into a day shelter for the homeless.

The council approved Monday providing a $75,000 Community Development Block Grant so the necessary work can be done in that space at the Salvation Army building, including making it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A not-for-profit organization, Pekin Outreach Initiative currently offers services for the homeless out of its location at 515 Elizabeth St.

After the day shelter opens at the Salvation Army, Pekin Outreach Initiative officials said, the building on Elizabeth will be used only for administrative purposes, meetings and storage.

Infrastructure improvements subcommittee disbanded

The city council created an infrastructure improvements subcommittee made up of council members in 2018 that was charged with making recommendations to the council on which proposed projects should be given priority.

The committee was disbanded Monday. Among the results of the disbanding is city staff will now evaluate projects proposed by residents and make recommendations on their priority to the council.

Steve Stein is an award-winning news and sports writer and editor. Most recently, he covered Tazewell County communities for the Peoria Journal Star for 18 years.