PEORIA MAGAZINE March 2023
government offices, a mix of old and new retail and upscale residential. The plan was approved in 2001, and the first major project, the Children’s Discovery Museum, opened its doors in 2004. “We wanted to showcase our expectations for redevelopment of this area,” Koos said. “The building was designed to house a world-class museum, but it also demonstrated what we thought the look for the new area should be.” IN THE MIDDLE OF EVERYTHING Museum Executive Director Beth Wisman said the facility has come to be seen as the “unofficial welcome center of Normal,” averaging some 140,000 visitors annually. “We’re here in the middle of everything,” she said. The building itself was constructed by the town, which continues to own and operate the facility, while the Children’s Museum Foundation raises funds for scholarships, exhibits and programming. “We’re proud to be a flagship of Uptown as it is today,” Wiseman said. Another Uptown anchor, the Marriott Hotel and Carol A. Reitan Conference Center, came on line in 2009. Just across the street is the Hyatt Place Hotel. Together they add hundreds of rooms and meeting space to the central business district where none had been before. It means thousands
from near and far come to Beauford and North Streets to find coffee shops, a comic book shop, vintage music stores, an Irish pub, numerous homegrown restaurants, a brew pub, gift shops and more. At Uptown Station, Amtrak offers four trains north and south daily. Travelers and locals can park their bike, catch a bus or taxi, or charge their electric vehicle in the parking deck. On the first floor of the deck is the University Galleries, a premier exhibition space for contemporary art. All new construction over 7,500 sq. ft. must meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards. Five buildings are LEED Silver certified. Wayne Aldrich, who served as Uptown Development Director until his retirement in 2021, said the plan came together because there was solid support from the Town Council, plenty of public input and a consistent leadership vision. “It was a team effort. The Council was solid behind it and we found the funding,” Aldrich said. “There was a vision and we were able to stick to that vision.” The Garlic Press is one business that has seen “almost every version of downtown that there has been” in the last 50 years, according to Sarah McManus, co-owner and daughter of founder Dorothy Bushnell. Established in 1976, the cookware, popcorn and creative living boutique has witnessed the entire transformation of the business district.
“We’re looking forward to more development on the horizon,” McManus said. “We’re going to survive it and make it work.”
MORE THAN A ROUNDABOUT
Unlike most modern roundabouts, Uptown Circle has a park in its center, with a landscaped berm, trees, a water feature and public seating. It’s a place to relax, take in a summer concert, wait for a train or cool your bare feet in the man-made bubbling brook. But below the grass and pavement is where the real innovation takes place. An underground cistern collects and holds up to 75,000 gallons of stormwater runoff from nearby streets. The water is naturally filtered through terraced bogs, then circulated into a fountain, a circular water feature and irrigation for trees and streetscapes. Designed by Hoerr Schaudt in Chicago, the plaza — Koos calls it a “magnet for people” — has received numerous awards, including nods from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2011 and the Congress for New Urbanism (CNU). HEADING SOUTH Normal Town Planner Mercy Davison said the next phase of development is Uptown South, a mixed-use commercial and residential project on the south side of the railroad tracks shared by Union Pacific and
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