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Peoria Innovation District Seeks to Change the Narrative on Downtown Peoria

Tim Shelley / WCBU
Jake Hamann, founder and Executive Director of the Peoria Innovation Alliance

A nine-block stretch of downtown Peoria is now the Innovation District.

The district is anchored by the new OSF headquarters in the old Block and Kuhl building; and the soon-to-be-opened Peoria Innovation Hub in the old ICC Downtown campus. 

Though the Innovation District doesn’t offer any tax breaks or economic incentives, Peoria Innovation Alliance founder Jake Hamann sees it as an important first step to position the city in the right frame of mind.

“I think what you’ll see though, as businesses start to move down here, as we start to see companies coming in from the outside. You’ll start to see increased property values, more pedestrian traffic. And it’s really just building in that urban core and building that momentum," said Hamann. 

He says other cities like St. Louis and Chattanooga have seen success with this model. 

Credit Tim Shelley / WCBU
Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis

“To me, it’s a two-fold celebration. It’s celebrating where we’ve been and how we got to this point, successfully in many cases, but it’s also about where we’re going, and the confidence to say ‘We ARE Peoria,'" said Ardis. 

The district is roughly centered around the new Peoria Innovation Hub, a project of the University of Illinois Discovery Partners Institute and several other organizations. It's bounded by Main, Water, Harrison and Jefferson. 

It doesn’t come with any economic incentives, but it was hailed as a first step to position the city for more innovation in the future. It's part of Hamann's wider efforts with the Peoria Innovation Alliance to bring about a more positive conversation in the wake of local narratives circling around Caterpillar's decision to cancel its plans to build a new world headquarters downtown and instead move to the Chicago region, and an overall negative tone about Illinois' business climate. 

The Peoria City Council unanimously backed the creation of the Peoria Innovation District at their Tuesday meeting. 

Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.