nobody in them all day. If I were the City of Peoria, I’d rip every single meter out.” It's a boring subject but an important one where Downtown’s viability is concerned. There is a sense that parking can be done better – more strategically, attractively, productively, with less environmental downside. WANTING ‘WALKABLE’

many, if not all, of those who spend the most time there say crime hasn’t been a part of their experience. Statistics provided by Peoria Police seem to back that up. The crimes that evoke the most concern – burglary, armed robbery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, home invasion, homicide, etc. – are stable following a COVID dip, with total criminal activity in 2022 down more than 20% from 2018-19. Even as record-setting numbers of murders have plagued Peoria overall, not a one has been committed Downtown in those five years. Nonetheless, when a 91-year-old man is the victim of a violent carjacking in a Downtown hospital parking garage, as occurred last December, it under standably causes unease. Even if it’s a rare occurrence, perception is reality for many, some will steer clear because of it, and city leaders must address it. Anything that makes people feel more secure – brighter lighting, a uniformed police presence, etc. – helps. More shoes on the pavement provide their own protection. HOMELESSNESS To see the tent communities and the routine presence of people holding cardboard signs at intersections is to know that homelessness in central Illinois has grown. “Having great social services” may be one explanation for that increased presence Downtown, noted Sullivan. Most folks want the unhoused to be treated with dignity and compassion but they also say the attendant issues – litter, makeshift bathrooms, sometimes-aggressive panhandling, etc. – can be a deterrent to visiting any downtown trying to roll out the welcome mat. Peoria isn’t alone; what’s working in other communities? DOWNTOWN’S ECHO CHAMBER Frustration has grown with property owners who sit on vacant buildings or lots, in some cases for decades. The request? Please do something with

those properties or do the community a favor and sell them to or partner with an entrepreneur who will. Adam White, owner of RC Outfitters, is among those who feel like Downtown is being “held hostage … As long as those buildings are vacant, we are rowing upstream.” “It’s a pretty substantial problem,” agreed Jim Mormann, OSF’s CEO of Integrated Solutions. In the first place, “it’s extremely costly” to restore a 100-year-old building. Second, “when owners want an arm and a leg for a building that’s decrepit, and you know what you have to put back into it … it becomes a daunting task.” Historic tax credits have been a big help Downtown. Meanwhile, things may be looking up, as there are plans to raze one of those long-empty buildings, the former Sully's Pub & Cafe, to make way for a $57 million hotel-residential development. APPEARANCES MATTER “We don’t maintain the trees so they die,” said Sullivan. “Cut them down and it’s an ashtray.” “On the RiverFront, all those dedicated bricks are falling apart. The fountain hasn’t worked for ages,” said Scott from her Main Street perch. “Even the Courthouse Plaza is falling apart.” Joining that chorus was the museum’s Morris: “We need to act like we’re successful to be successful.” Pick up the garbage, plant a flower, water it, pull the weeds. OTHER CONSIDERATIONS Downtown stakeholders have a lot to say. When the Civic Center is hopping, they’re hopping. When it’s dark, they’re dark. That dependence is good and bad. “Right now, the Civic Center is killin’ it,” said Sean Kenny, owner of Kenny’s Westside Pub. “I hated losing March Madness and would hate to lose the Rivermen. The Bradley crowd is good for us.” When Keith Urban and comedian Bill Burr headlined a

“Walkability” is the buzzword of the moment in urban planning circles, but at 600 acres, Downtown Peoria is not walkable for most. Who has a bite and a beer at Obed & Isaac’s and then strolls to Zion for a cup of joe? Meanwhile, unless it’s a true destination like Kelly Seed or RC Outfitters, the draws may be too few and far between to make the trip Downtown worth someone’s while. Locally, Peoria Heights is probably the best example of a walkable downtown with bundled, proven attractions. That said, are walkable pockets in distinctively branded, well-marketed Downtown neighborhoods with “more to do” in each possible? That’s taking shape in the Warehouse District with its “city within a city” vibe, but elsewhere, not so much. Downtown needs more after-5 p.m. activities to keep people around, say many. It’s simple: “Business draws business,” said Pat Sullivan, at 72 one of the deans of the Downtown development scene. CRIME CONCERNS It’s not unusual to hear people say they’re “scared” of Downtown. But


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