PEORIA MAGAZINE March 2023
S P O T L I G H T
THE CAPTAINS BEHIND THE CURTAIN Peoria’s Downtown Development Corporation acts as a ‘quick reaction force’ for getting things done in city’s center
Michael Freilinger is president and CEO of the Downtown Development Corporation
BY LINDA SMITH BROWN PHOTO BY RON JOHNSON
P eoria’s Downtown Development Corporation has no publicly elected board members, it cannot make policy and receives no public funding. Yet 10 years after its creation, the DDC can point to its involvement in the redevelopment of eight buildings in the Warehouse District, resulting in a 12-fold increase in the total average tax revenue produced by the properties. The Downtown Development Corpo ration came about in 2013 through the efforts of Peoria’s CEO Council, a group of 50 business and industry leaders. Michael Freilinger was hired as the Downtown Development Corporation’s president and CEO, and a board was seated. The goal of the CEO Council was to improve the overall business climate in Peoria. A vibrant and thriving Downtown is considered a linchpin in that aim.
WORKING TOWARD ‘AN EXCITING PLACE TO BE’ The DCC advocates for policy decisions, smooths the way for land acquisitions, and acts as a liaison between City Hall and developers. “We’re kind of a quick reaction force for the city. We’re outside city government. We can act very quickly to get things done and we can keep it quiet,” said Freilinger, adding that confidentiality is important when it comes to the buying and selling of land. The first goal of the DDC’s strategic plan has been to increase the number of people living Downtown, modeled on the successes of other cities. Downtown residents provide more of an after-business hours presence, supporting the restaurants and bars and other nearby establishments, said Freilinger.
“People on the streets provide activity, which makes it an exciting place to be,” he said. “Businesses start considering maybe they should be downtown, because that’s where their employees want to be.” FOCUSING ON WAREHOUSE DISTRICT FIRST During the early days of DDC, the group divided the downtown area into four separate sections: the Riverfront District, Core Business District, Ware house District, and Medical District. Added later was the East Bluff Growth Cell District. Since its inception, the bulk of the DDC’s work has been in the city’s 165 acre Warehouse District, but that was not the plan. Indeed, “there was not a real plan at the start,” said Freilinger. “The interesting
52 MARCH 2023 PEORIA MAGAZINE
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