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Progress must continue despite economy

In late September, I researched and wrote a story about an apartment complex to be built on Main Street, where a vacant Walgreens building now sits.
Two apartment buildings, including a pool area, as well as retail space would be included in Main Street Commons in an effort to revitalize the area.
The project was supposed to have started in October, pending building permit approval, with a goal completion date of August 2010.
But no construction cones have been placed on Main Street, no cement mixers block traffic and the old Walgreens still stands, vacant, hulking over the street.

For all the city’s talk of revitalizing Peoria and drawing new businesses to run-down areas, I’ve seen nothing – no improvements, no revitalizations and certainly no Main Street Commons.
“But the recession,” people may argue. “We’re all hurting.”
Certainly, we’re all hurting. But isn’t that the point of new construction? Injecting jobs for the jobless, vitality in areas that are lifeless and maybe a little greenery and glasswork into a broken-down street bursting with vacant space?
The abundance of eyesores isn’t limited to the West Bluff. Drive north on Adams Street from South Peoria and the number of vacant, crumbling buildings isn’t so much astounding as it is depressing. Some buildings have beautiful architectural detail. There are crumbling signs from earlier businesses long gone. Most are empty.
The Economic Development Council for Central Illinois lists 170 vacant commercial properties in Peoria. Those located in designated Enterprise Zones – zones targeted for business growth and economic revitalization – get investment tax credits, exemptions on building material taxes and partial property tax abatements. Most of Adams Street is in the zone, and a good portion of the West Bluff, from University Street eastward down the hill on Main Street.
So what’s the hold up? I’m tired of out-of-towners thinking we live in a broken-down city with apathetic residents and an uncaring government. There’s a lot Peoria has to offer – it just gets hidden underneath the old dust.
Maybe Main Street Commons will be a start. Thomas Harrington, a member of Main Street Commons, LLC, the company developing the complex, said financing issues were being “wrapped up” and construction should start this summer. The complex, which will include a gym and tanning area, has a new goal opening of fall 2011. Harrington said the area will mean “Division I-quality housing at a smaller school.”
This sounds good to me – if it happens. This city has potential in its miles of waterfront, strong neighborhoods and a thriving arts scene. But it seems that improvements keep getting put off, waiting on conditional things to come, delaying the potential for growth.
Lauren Rees is a senior journalism major from Schaumberg. She is a Scout staff reporter.
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