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Housing Opportunities Keep Growing in Downtown Peoria

Tim Shelley / WCBU

Despite challenges posed by the pandemic, Downtown Peoria will see residential growth in 2021.

Michael Freilinger, executive director and CEO of the Peoria Downtown Development Corp. (DDC), said an additional 146 housing units are expected to hit the market this year, with 120 of them located at the former Builders Warehouse location, 812 SW Washington St., that’s expected to start leasing this summer. 

That will put the number of residential units in Downtown Peoria at 516 by the end of the year, said Freilinger. That’s a 138 percent increase in downtown units since Freilinger took over at the DDC six years ago.

A housing report completed last year—before the coronavirus outbreak—estimated demand for up to 379 additional residential units in Downtown Peoria by 2024.

That report, filed by Evanston-based Kretchmer Associates, based the need on continued improvements in the city’s Warehouse District, the addition of OSF Healthcare headquarters downtown and the continuation of historic tax credits to encourage developers.

“There’s a real potential for growth in Peoria,” said Freilinger, noting the biggest challenge to development right now is the unknown due to the pandemic. “Are trends going to change and when is that to be?” he said.

The need for more parking remains an issue as more residences go online in the Warehouse District, said Freilinger, but development will bring more than a parking crunch.

“With residential growth, other businesses will find it attractive to be in the downtown. When you’ve got 1,000 people living on one city block, you’re going to have services in close proximity to serve that residential population,” said Freilinger.

While rents run higher in the downtown than other areas of Peoria, people trade space for cost, said Freilinger, suggesting downtown residents are willing to sacrifice square footage for convenience.

Freilinger said the downtown residential market includes downtown workers, the newly-single and empty-nesters. “Families still prefer the suburbs or single-family homes with a yard,” he said.

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Steve Tarter retired from the Peoria Journal Star in 2019 after spending 20 years at the paper as both reporter and business editor.