PEORIA MAGAZINE March 2023
An empty lot awaiting development at State Street and SW Washington
S P O T L I G H T
‘THEY PAVED PARADISE, AND PUT UP A PARKING LOT’ Songwriter Joni Mitchell was clear in her sentiments, but does Downtown Peoria need more asphalt, less, or something in between?
BY LINDA SMITH BROWN PHOTO BY RON JOHNSON
R eader quiz: Does Downtown Peoria have: A) too much park ing B) too little parking or C) parking in all the wrong places? For Michael Freilinger, president and CEO of Peoria’s non-profit Downtown Development Corporation, the answer is C) parking in all the wrong places. Parking may seem like a mundane matter, but it’s at the center of a national debate as municipal leaders look to revive moribund downtowns brought low by COVID and to rethink what puts pedestrians back on sidewalks and shoppers and diners back in their stores and restaurants. While one camp insists that you almost can’t have enough convenient parking, the other sees acre upon acre of ugly, unproductive, expensive (to build and maintain), impermeable, heat-trapping, unnecessary, uninviting and too often unoccupied asphalt and concrete.
is happening now, we need parking,” Freilinger said. As the district’s name implies, the buildings being redeveloped are old warehouses constructed between 1880 and the 1920s, when most Peorians did not own a vehicle and there were few employees working in those buildings at any one time. Consequently, parking wasn’t on anyone’s radar. Now, those repurposed warehouses can have 100 units of studios, one and-two bedroom apartments and lofts, with residents who want parking reasonably near their front door. Freilinger is the guy who wants to make sure they have it. “I represent developers and developers care about their tenants and their tenants need parking,” said Freilinger. “If you don’t have the amount of parking available that a developer thinks he
So, should downtowns be built for people or for vehicles? Is Peoria ahead of the curve or behind it? Depends on who you ask, of course. MORE PARKING COMING TO DOWNTOWN PEORIA Freilinger concedes that the core business district of Downtown “probably” has enough parking. The current number of office vacancies has resulted in vacant stalls in parking garages. But parking in the Central Business District will never go to waste, he says. “When the Central Business District is developed, there will be a need for residential parking and commercial parking, plus people who come Downtown for the occasional event. “But if you go down in the Warehouse District, where all the development
64 MARCH 2023 PEORIA MAGAZINE
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