leader like Carver, and they didn’t have a leader like Connor,” said Leitch. “You put the two of them together, and there was a lot of power there.” NO MIRACLE, ‘JUST A HELLUVA LOT OF HARD WORK’ If Demetriou was the dreamer with a dose of common sense about how to get things across the finish line, Connor was the hard-charging driver who wasn’t about to let the plan fail, and Carver the hard-eyed pragmatist. “We have spared no efforts in creating our report, but it will be a failure to dwell on graphics, designs and words,” Demetriou said at the time. “Our primary concern now must be implementation, where we go from here.” “Everyone seems very excited and en thusiastic, but the test is not how pretty the drawings are,” added Carver. “We cannot spend public monies until we are reasonably assured of a respectable return on investment.” “Demetriou was the guy who lit the fire. Fundamentally, the idea of the Civic Center was his,” the 85-year-old Carver says today from his Sarasota, Florida home. But “he was the idea, not the doer.” Ultimately, “there is no such thing as ‘one person did it,’” concludes Carver. “It happened because a very small group of people just said, ‘We’re going to make it happen no matter what.’ … You can look back and say it was a miracle. It wasn’t a miracle, just a helluva lot of hard work.” BUMPS ALONG THE WAY Reality does have a tendency to in trude, of course. Not every prominent person and organization in town was on board. Cost estimates soared on Demetriou's 31 projects — 10 public, 21 private. The first iteration of the Civic Center, which has undergone reinvest ment and expansion since, ballooned from $35 million to $62 million, almost $190 million in today’s dollars, even after substantial cuts were made. The City Council decision in 1976 to create a new tax to fund the Civic

our lifestyle. The primary criteria have become speed and efficiency,” Demetriou said then. “Without beauty, a city has nothing to keep you … Only beauty remains active.” At the time, those words touched a chord, Leitch said. “People had a lot of excitement about the Downtown then.” ‘THE DOWNSTATE CAPITAL OF ILLINOIS’ It wasn’t just Demetriou's doing, of course. Peoria was very much a headquarters city then, between Caterpillar, Central Illinois Light Co., Midwest Financial Group, Bergner’s, etc., with leaders

Leitch, now 74, was there for all of it – indeed, at the very center of it, first as the City Hall reporter cov ering the story for the local daily newspaper, before being hired away

David Leitch

to become president of the Downtown Development Council, the not-for profit group of business leaders who spearheaded the private-sector side of Downtown’s reinvention. “I loved writing about it but the chance to do it really appealed to me,” he said. ‘WITHOUT BEAUTY, A CITY HAS NOTHING TO KEEP YOU’ — Angelos Demetriou It has been 50 years since Demetriou, then 43, was hired in Peoria to help turn around what then was widely acknowledged as a dying downtown. Part architect, part philosopher, part poet, the Cyprus-born Demetriou cut a striking figure between his silver mane of hair and his elegant, almost regal bearing. After cutting his teeth at the renowned Greek engineering and architectural firm Doxiadis, Demetriou found himself in America’s capital in an office off DuPont Circle, building his own global practice with projects across Europe, the Middle East and many major American cities, from Minneapolis to Miami. “He was something else,” said Leitch. “He used that flamboyant side to conceal his street smarts.” He recalls a Demetriou who was “the right guy for the job,” a professional of great precision, from his urban designs down to the hardboiled egg – “exactly three minutes” – he routinely ordered for breakfast. “Everything had to be beautiful,” said Leitch, something Demetriou made clear in a memorable interview with the Journal Star. “We have accepted a demotion in

willing to wield the clout they had. Specifically, there were forceful personalities such as bank president David Connor, CILCO CEO Harry Feltenstein and local industrialist Lew Burger. On the public side, there were former Mayor Richard Carver and a capable Council. “With a strong mayor and council, and a strong private sector, and a strong plan like Deme

David Connor

Dick Carver

triou's, to me that’s a recipe for getting things done,” said Leitch. “I think the proof is in the pudding.” Such was that group’s confidence that they didn’t flinch at bringing in world-class talent – first Demetriou, then Philip Johnson, winner of the first Pritzker Prize for architectural achievement, to do the Civic Center. Connor in particular was devoted to raising Peoria’s game. “His vision was to make Peoria the capital of downstate Illinois,” said Leitch. As for Carver, he “was – is – the greatest salesman that ever lived, and the most optimistic. Bombs would be exploding left and right, and ‘There’s no problem, I’ll take care of it,’ recalled Leitch. “And he would.” Other plans have come and gone in Peoria because “they didn’t have a


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