EAST PEORIA - East Peoria's newly named downtown area, the Levee District, is already opening eyes for what the future could hold. .
It wasn't long ago, that many could not imagine this part of East Peoria blooming into what it is becoming. Thursday night, city and regional leaders came together at the Embassy Suites in East Peoria, and many agree the progress reaches far beyond the new downtown.
"A healthy East Peoria is healthy for Peoria and the entire region. So there's a lot of good things happening around our region right now, and the key is economic development," said Rep. Mike Unes, (R-91).
A variety of already committed shops and stops are a highly anticipated engine for that development.
And on a day like Thursday when the soon-to-open Target held its search for employees, the city says the hundreds of projected new jobs in the region is a bright future.
"We know it's over 300 people who are receiving a paycheck, who are constructing the Levee District currently. And that's nowhere near where that's going to be employed in the future," said mayor Dave Mingus.
Jim Mamer, President and C.E.O. of Morton Community Bank, is heavily involved in Levee District developments and looks forward to the money brought in by new business.
"This next year alone there's going to be $195 million more provided in sales tax in the city of East Peoria, and that's amazing when these stores open up," he said.
Some, like Mamer, are already thinking even further down the road beyond the new district.
"There's about six and a half acres that we know that is sort of unspoken for at this time on Altorfer Drive. But in addition to that, if you look further down the Clock Tower Drive you'll see that goes in on the Camp Street side," he said. "And I envision there's going to be a spill over, once [the Levee District] fills up, into there completely."
But for now, what's next for the Levee District? Mingus says the focus in on watching how the new development unfolds.
"Right now we're kind of in a holding pattern and that's not all bad, because we'll need to catch up a little bit, get infrastructure on property, get landscapes. But I'm sure in 2013, we'll hold some announcements that we're not aware of today," he said.