Peoria Heights Prospers

by Mayor Mike Phelan
Photography by Chris Chandler
Above: The 4500 Prospect development project: before, during and after construction

Development in recent years has solidified its position as a progressive regional destination.

Peoria Heights has a charming downtown with a variety of attractions nestled within. In many ways, the Heights has always been a destination because of its status as a river community. However, development in the past few years has been sparked by interest in a “new urbanism”-style approach as both empty nesters and millennials desire to live in a more walkable, accessible urban setting. 

Smart Growth
Striking landmarks such as Tower Park and Grandview Drive have always been cornerstones of the community, but vibrant developmental changes in the past few years have propelled Peoria Heights to the forefront of the region. Thanks to this extensive revisioning, more people can be seen walking around, attending concerts and patronizing an area that has become a mecca for outdoor dining.

New businesses that have popped up join more experienced businesses that have been around for decades to form an eclectic mix. Some recently updated or newly introduced attractions within the Heights include Heritage Square, Sculpture Walk, 4500 Prospect (which includes Thrivent Financial and Edge by Chef Dustin Allen), Duryea Apartments, Rock Island Trail, Duryea Dog Park, shipping-container seating along Prospect Road, and the Trailside Event Center inside the Trefzger's building. 

Trefzger’s Building project: before, during and after construction
The Trefzger’s Building project: before, during and after construction

Still, the emergence and success of these new features stemmed from careful planning. Chicago-based urban planning consulting firm Houseal Lavigne conducted a Commercial Corridors Master Plan, which was federally funded through the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission in 2016. This plan analyzed and identified roadway improvements for major commercial roads in Peoria Heights. Three more small area studies and a hotel study, also conducted by Houseal Lavigne, painted a clearer picture of what possibilities exist. Implementation of these smart planning strategies leads to smart growth—especially in the Heights, where limited land supply creates a significant revitalization effort for existing properties.

Last year, two Bradley University marketing classes studied the economic development of Peoria Heights with Professor Mitch Griffin and found that people from as far as the Bloomington-Normal area come to the Heights to visit and eat. As a result, the village has cast its net even further than the Peoria area, and it is slowly solidifying its role as a regional destination. 

Destination Transformation
Of course, it does take a village to bring about such pivotal change. Many businesses do double-duty and connect with multiple community organizations. Several key attractions in the Heights were community-led, such as the Duryea Dog Park, which came to fruition through the Build Peoria initiative, and Pour Bros. Craft Taproom, which holds charitable events throughout the year to serve local organizations. Dustin Sutton—Peoria Heights police chief for 20 years, who recently also became village administrator—emphasizes safety as a key element that helps the village continue to flourish. 

All previous developments, as well as plans for future development, align with the vision the Village of Peoria Heights has for itself. The village is undergoing a transformation as it grows and prospers, and the combination of amenities helps the Heights become a desirable destination for all walks of life. iBi

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