its roof!) became Thyme. And an adult bookstore was reborn into Zion Coffee. Over a relatively short span, we added a few hundred residential units and a few thousand square feet of retail space to an area that previously was about 20% industrial and 80% vacant. Developers such as Casey Baldovin will build on this momentum with great projects both underway and planned. Five years ago, I left my job at the city to become the CEO of the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council. As the head of a regional entity, my focus isn’t on urban redevelopment like it once was. I will tell you that I do miss it: I miss walking through a vacant and dilapidated building with a person with just a dream and then seeing it become something completely new. And though I don’t find myself in the weeds anymore, I still understand the importance of Downtown Peoria. Its

vibrancy is certainly important for the city of Peoria, but in reality it is vitally important to the entire region. When we crafted our Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy a few years ago, we included “investments in town centers” as a key priority. That was certainly a nod to the im portance of downtowns across greater Peoria – from Havana to Washington and from Pekin to Peoria Heights. But Peoria’s downtown is the heart of the whole region, and we must collectively understand that its vitality is important to all of us. Regardless of where in the region we hope newcomers land, or where a new business might set up shop, they will all judge the strength of the region by the strength of its heartbeat. Cities across America would love to have a riverfront like ours, to have a central business district with tenants like Caterpillar and OSF, to have a

Civic Center that can play host to over 10,000 people in a weekend, and to have a burgeoning neighborhood like the Warehouse District. WE MUST COLLECTIVELY UNDERSTAND THAT DOWNTOWN'S VITALITY IS IMPORTANT TO ALL OF US That skyline sets us apart from our competition. Let’s keep working to ensure the reality on the ground is as amazing as it looks from afar.

Chris Setti is CEO of the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council


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