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Peoria Wins City Hall Competition, Scores Points for Civic Engagement

Cass Herrington
Peoria Public Radio

It’s official. The Leslie Knope Best City Hall trophy is headed to Peoria.

On Sat., the organization Engaging Local Government Leaders posted the final results of its inaugural online competition.

Peoria’s 118-year-old City Hall beat Vancouver, Wa.’s shiny, LEED certified structure in the finals, with 59 percent of the votes.

On Sat., Vancouver congratulated Peoria, Tweeting: “we’ll admit it now, it is a beautiful city hall.”

Peoria was selected from a pool of more than 200 applicants to be included in ELGL's bracket, which kicked off last month with 64 City Halls in the competition, styled like the NCAA March Madness bracket. 

City of Peoria Spokesperson Stacy Peterson says in addition to the building’s elaborate architectural details, she thinks its history played a role in securing the victory.

“During a time when distilleries really reigned supreme,” Peterson, who’s also on the board of the Peoria Historical Society, said. “This building was done with quite a bit of cash, and also as a nod to the people who built the city, the immigrants, who actually came here and established their residency here.”

City Hall’s Flemish Renaissance style is a salute to the Peoria’s German ancestors, who worked in various city departments at the time. Peoria saw an influx of German immigrants during the mid-1800s.

Whatever the reason, voters flooded ELGL's website, which drew as many as 90,000 visitors in a single day, Peterson said.

“To see that kind of turnout, and the kind of activity that was being driven on the web, and the number of people who were out voting, is really a positive thing,” City Manager Patrick Urich said.

Urich says the participation echoes an increase he’s also seen in meetings and conversations. For example, the recent town hall discussions on race relations have seen attendance soar above 300, which is uncommon, Urich said.  

“Obviously this is considerably lighter,” Urich said.

He's hopeful the City Hall win drives more people to get involved in city government, particularly during more challenging discussions, including race and the city’s budget.