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East Peoria Mayor Kahl eager to have public contribute to shaping city’s direction over next 20 years

East Peoria Mayor John Kahl
Joe Deacon
East Peoria Mayor John Kahl

East Peoria leaders are gathering input from the public on charting a path for the city over the next two decades, and Mayor John Kahl believes community feedback is vital to developing a comprehensive plan.

An online survey asks residents to submit their opinions on topics such as housing, businesses, recreation and entertainment options. The city also held the first in a series of open houses on the comprehensive plan earlier this month.

“It was a great turnout, a lot of positive feedback,” Kahl said. “When you look from the public's perspective, you don't know what's – you know, everyone's got their own opinion of what they'd like to see. But mixed-use development, we heard it time and time again, people would like to see more of a mixed-use on future growth.”

Kahl said that following the Blutowne project currently under construction, the city would like to pursue additional development along Center Street. He views that as just one of many areas for growth in East Peoria, particularly commercial growth.

“I look to the Pinecrest (Drive) area; that was something in our comprehensive plan that's been in place as a target of opportunity, or whatever you want to call it, for a number of years – and it still is,” said Kahl, noting a lot of factors go into plotting a direction for the city’s future.

“The consultant that's working on this project, they've already compiled a ton of information which they’ve shared with us, as far as everything from population, median household income, and kind of areas that they've identified as growth areas, if you will. Then with that, part of the comprehensive plan is: what are the challenges within those areas?

“So, what are the steps the city would have to take to make those improvements? And one that comes to mind always at the top of the list is zoning. That's one of the things that we really need to look to (consider), because you need to make sure it aligns with whatever goals you come up with.”

The last complete update of East Peoria’s comprehensive plan came in 2005, with occasional updates in the following years.

Kahl says East Peoria already is progressing through several infrastructure improvements, such as an overhaul of Springfield Road and upgrading the Veterans Road Bridge. He also touts the construction of new police station and the opening of a fire station near Illinois Central College as major steps forward.

“The fire station, that was at least 35 years in the making. So to actually get that up and running … we've already seen in the response times, because of the call volume being concentrated up there, on the majority of the calls, the response times are less than four minutes, which is tremendous,” Kahl said.

“That police station is going to be another tremendous asset, and I view it as not just a morale booster for the men and women that serve our community with the police department, but it's going to be an asset to the city as well, to the public.”

Kahl said he hopes to be able to provide the brand identity of a new hotel being built along the river in the near future. The Frontier Hospitality Group development is taking the location that had previously been in line for the Riverview Lofts project that failed to materialize.

“They have plans to build a four-story, 100-room hotel down there. We do have legal reasons (why) we can't name the brand yet, but that is coming soon,” said Kahl, adding he anticipates the project will break ground in February or March of next year.

“Just with the projects that these guys have done and the kind of operators that they are, we view them to be first-class and this project will be no different than the other two hotels they have in East Peoria as far as quality. They go above and beyond what's required of them by the brand standards with respect to construction, so we’re super-excited.”

Residents and members of the East Peoria business community interested in participating in the East Peoria comprehensive plan survey can access it at www.eastpeoria2045.com. The survey takes around 10-15 minutes and will be available through June 30.

Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.