PEORIA — The riverfront landscape is soon to change in Downtown Peoria. The demolition of Riverfront Village, the controversial platform that housed restaurants and offices, began on Monday.

Public Works Director Scott Reeise looks for the demolition to be completed by May 11. N.E. Finch Co., 1925 S. Darst St., is doing the demolishing for the city, having submitted the low bid of $1.5 million.

The city-owned platform, built in 1999 at a cost of $4.5 million, not only housed three restaurants at one time but sheltered some 200 parking spaces, spots that have become more important than the platform, itself, to Downtown concerns.

"We are trying to save the row of parking closest to Water Street, but it depends if the demolition undermines it. Otherwise, we have enough parking for the Riverfront Market," Reeise said.

The farmers market, organized by the Peoria Riverfront Association, starts its season on May 19, just a week after the planned completion date for platform demolition.

"The market will happen regardless. This summer we may be looking at some adjustments because of the demolition," said Sharon Gramm, the association's executive director.

"We plan to meet with the city later this month to discuss setup issues such as electrical outlets and space requirements," she said.

The Downtown farmers market has grown over the years, sometimes reaching to 3,000 to 4,000 people on a weekend, Gramm said.

Because of that success, it's important to maintain as much parking as possible in the area, she said. "We're very happy with the council's decision to leave a strip of parking along Water Street," Gramm said.

While the 30 additional parking spaces are temporary, Gramm said she hopes that a more permanent parking solution can be worked out as a riverfront park is developed in the area.

Representatives of the Spirit of Peoria riverboat that docks at the foot of Main Street have also expressed concern about the loss of parking that Riverfront Village provided. Alice Grady, a boat captain, raised concerns of congestion on a Saturday morning when an excursion would occur at the same time as the market.

Reeise said the riverfront's future is still being planned. "Initially the space will be open green space," he said, adding that the first phase of construction on the riverfront site will consist of grading and underground utility work.

The city sought community input on riverfront ideas before unveiling several concepts last year. Both concepts, each bearing a price tag of $2.5 million, made extensive use of green space including features such as a climbing wall, a children's playground and a sunken lawn around a performance stage.

City officials have said that any improvements in the area likely would be built in stages as city funds allowed.

The public can still weigh in with ideas at planpeoria.com.

Steve Tarter covers city and county government for the Journal Star. He can be reached at 686-3260 or starter@pjstar.com. Follow him at Twitter@SteveTarter and facebook.com/tartersource.