New Garden Brings Vibrancy to East Peoria’s Downtown

Since its dedication in May, the new Reading Garden located in the heart of East Peoria’s Levee District has shown itself to be a vibrant public space for residents and visitors alike. Situated between the Fondulac District Library and the space set to become Levee Park, it exemplifies the East Peoria Community Foundation’s (EPCF) vision to develop philanthropy-based projects that support community activities and the growth of the city’s new downtown. 

The Reading Garden features beautiful landscaping with versatile spaces for programs and activities—plus plenty of seating for reading and relaxation. It provides a pedestrian connection between Richland and Washington streets and even contains a “Little Free Library” stocked with materials for discovery. The nonprofit EPCF, formed in 2014, funded the garden solely through private donations; the city owns the land and will continue to maintain the space. Its design originated from a conceptual proposal by landscape architecture firm Daniel Weinbach & Partners, and local businesses, including Aupperle Construction and Midwest Engineering Associates, were contracted to complete the project.

The Fondulac District Library has already made great use of the space, hosting programs such as an informative outdoor grilling session for adults, a Fun Friday “storywalk” for children, and an educational powwow with Eagle Ridge and Friends. Additional programs are scheduled throughout the summer, including a summer reading celebration complete with carnival games and other activities.

The success of EPCF’s first project bodes well as it moves forward with plans for the 1.5 acres adjacent to the garden. The foundation envisions the future Levee Park will be an inviting, functional space for special events and daily use that will include a water feature, venues for markets and festivals, an open multipurpose lawn, a performance plaza and terraced seating areas.

“The goal of the new park is to draw people regularly into our downtown district to spur economic activity and growth, reconnect and beautify our downtown, and provide the infrastructure needed for community activities and events,” explains EPCF President Sue Yoder-Portscheller. “It embodies the new iconic face of East Peoria: green, growing and family-centered.” iBi

EPCF continues to raise funds to support the development of Levee Park through private donations. Visit eastpeoriacommunityfoundation.org for more information or ways to get involved.

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