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Chillicothe Times-Bulletin - Chillicothe, IL
  • Development dreams may come true

  • For many years Pekin city councils have dreamed of riverfront development that would make the downtown thrive once again.Riverfront Park was a joint venture between the city of Pekin and the Pekin Park District in 2005. The city hoped at the time that the park might attract top-end restaurants and retailers. Though th...
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  • For many years Pekin city councils have dreamed of riverfront development that would make the downtown thrive once again.
    Riverfront Park was a joint venture between the city of Pekin and the Pekin Park District in 2005. The city hoped at the time that the park might attract top-end restaurants and retailers. Though there was sporadic interest over the years after the park was built, development never came.
    The city has renewed hope that at least some of the property south of the park will see development in the coming years. A developer has approached the city with a proposal to build apartments on some, if not all, of nine acres to the south of Riverfront Park. The developer would likely build three or four buildings with a total of 16 to 18 units total.
    The Pekin City Council will consider an agreement with Farnsworth Group for consulting services to determine what needs to happen to make the property development-ready. If the council approves the study, it will pay Farnsworth $22,500, using Tax Increment Finance Funds to pay for it.
    The main items that would need to be addressed on the property, which is owned by the city, would be utilities, said Pekin City Manager Joe Wuellner.
    The city spoke several years ago with Ameren Illinois officials about moving power lines in that area to allow for development. The quote at that time was approximately $500,000 to move the lines and place them underground. Wuellner said that with new technology it will likely cost about the same now as it would have before.
    Storm water and sanitary sewers will also have to be reworked to some degree. That area is served by combination sewers in some places. Wuellner also said there would be the matter of sidewalks, streetlights, gas lines and whatever other utilities exist there.
    Farnsworth Group did the initial study and consulted on the Riverfront Park project, so the company already has some of the data needed for the study. Wuellner said it would cost more to have another company start from scratch.
    The acreage overlooks the river where residents would have a good view. There are train tracks along the river, but they are at a lower elevation and a train would not be visible from the complex, said Wuellner.
    The sidewalk that already runs through Riverfront Park will be extended the length of the apartment complex. The park would be one of the amenities to attract people to the apartment complex, said Wuellner.
    Wuellner said the area “lends itself well to apartments or condos.”
    The area is a series of vacant lots, an abandoned brick building and the remaining foundations of silos demolished by the city approximately 10 years ago. Wuellner said at the time that the silos were demolished there was debate about whether to take the silos completely to the ground or to leave the bases. The decision was made to leave the bases, or foundations, so that the flood plain would not be altered. That, he said, was a good decision because it allows the developer to build closer to the river.
    Page 2 of 2 - The brick building there is abandoned and would be demolished to make way for the development. The existing streets would stay in place to allow access to the apartment buildings and the park.
    Pekin Economic Development/Tourism Director Leigh Ann Matthews said the city property in question is part of the central downtown business district and is eligible for TIF funding.
    Matthews said the proposed development gives people moving to the area an option for housing. She said the inhabitants of the apartments will need services and businesses downtown.
    “Obviously if we get additional population downtown it is only going to support other businesses,” she said. “Anymore, mixed use development is what we are seeing in successful downtowns.”
    The city initiated a commercial retail/upper story housing loan program a few years ago to allow downtown businesses to develop loft and other living quarters in their upper stories.
    The downtown population is growing. The Fusion Youth Center building, formerly the Elks Club, houses Bible college students now in its upper stories. It was facilitated by that loan program.
    Wuellner said the apartments would be located on both sides of Main Street. The area along Second Street has in the past been considered an area for small businesses to locate when development started there.

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