Community Issues

Museum Square Update
W. Michael Bryant, Methodist Medical Center

There have been a number of very positive articles and comments related to the future of Museum Square during the first two months of 2008. As a background, the Museum Square project is composed of, first and foremost, the Caterpillar Visitors Center and Peoria Riverfront Museum, i.e. the Museum Collaboration Group, which includes the Peoria Historical Society, Peoria Riverfront Museum Society, African-American Hall of Fame Museum, Illinois High School Association and Lakeview Museum. The total Museum Square project is estimated to cost approximately $130 million.

The synergies between the Caterpillar Visitors Center and the Peoria Riverfront Museum will bring upwards of 400,000 people per year to downtown Peoria. With the opening of the Peoria Zoo and development of Museum Square, a promising arts community, enhancements in professional sport franchises and the increased number of hotel rooms, there is now a greater potential for Peoria to become a day trip and/or overnight trip destination for vacationing families.

Recognizing the tremendous economic development potential and quality of life opportunities of Museum Square, the CEO Roundtable, at its January meeting, agreed to evaluate whether it should take a leadership role in helping to bring the Museum Square project to fruition. A Museum Task Force has been established which includes individuals from the CEO Roundtable, the Peoria Riverfront Museum Collaboration Group and Caterpillar.

The goal of the Museum Task Force is four-fold:

  1. To gain consensus on the final, definitive cost of the Peoria Riverfront Museum and Museum Square
  2. To identify legitimate funding resources that will make the project viable
  3. To develop and promote a new and exciting campaign for the magnitude of Museum Square, especially the Caterpillar Visitors Center
  4. To support a referendum, if that option is necessary.

The Museum Task Force has met several times since the January board meeting to continue to refine and identify all potential opportunities. It does appear that a public funding mechanism will be necessary to complete the project. We are encouraged that the Peoria County Board is continuing to pursue this project as one of its priorities for 2008. Across the country, projects of this type generally have at least one-third of their funding from public sources.

The goal by the CEO Roundtable’s April meeting is to have the above objectives completed with a final decision made as to the role we should or can play, and whether the Museum Square project has viable funding to move forward.

In summary, a project of this magnitude will likely never again be seen in Peoria. The economic development potential will only add to the diversity of our economic base. As a community, each and every one of us should do everything reasonably possible to ensure the huge opportunity of Museum Square is not lost: it is much too important to our future. IBI

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