PEORIA — The Peoria City Council approved 9-1 the formation of a proposed Downtown Advisory Commission last week.
The commission will focus on future planning and business development in the areas near the hospitals located in downtown Peoria, the Marriott hotel project complex, the Caterpillar Visitors Center and Peoria Riverfront Museum and the Warehouse District.
With the help of Peoria Councilman Ryan Spain, Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis selected eight of the nine members of the commission, including its chairman Mark Misselhorn, a member of the Peoria Zoning Commission and an architect at apaceDesign.
“We’re going to attempt to do things differently,” said Misselhorn. “From a taxpayer (perspective), this is strictly volunteer. There is very little, if any, cost to the city. It’s not a consultant being brought in and being paid. We are community volunteers.”
Other members of the commission include Jay Goldberg of Jay Goldberg Events & Entertainment; Ray Lees of the Peoria office of PSA Dewberry Inc.; University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria Dean Sara Rusch; Caterpillar Inc. Marketing Communications Manager Rusty Dunn; Becky Frye, a co-owner of Water Street Solutions; Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO Don Welch; and Catholic Diocese of Peoria Director of Development and Stewardship John Gibson.
The ninth member of commission will be determined at a later date.
Misselhorn was appointed to a 3-year term. The terms of the other members will be determined at the commission’s first meeting.
According to Ardis, the commission’s first meeting will be held sometime this month. Its first task will be enhancing communication among different groups in and around downtown Peoria.
“At the beginning, it will be mostly educational — updating members about what’s going on in their particular area,” said Ardis. “I expect feedback on concerns and ideas for what will help them going forward. We want to establish lines of communication and begin to put together a plan for moving forward.”
Although the commission is only an advisory group, it could be given more responsibilities.
“Right now they have no real authority,” said Ardis.
Ardis wants the commission to replicate the “Operation Downtown” district in Des Moines, Iowa.
Operation Downtown is a self-supported municipal improvement district responsible for making sure downtown Des Moines is safe, clean, and aesthetically appealing. It’s funded by downtown property owners through a fee structure based on assessed value and hospital contributions. An alliance manages its $2 million budget, which goes towards plantings and cleaning in downtown Des Moines.
“I’m going to ask them to look at Operation Downtown in Des Moines and see if we can replicate it here,” said Ardis.
Goldberg hopes the commission will deal with proactive issues, rather than reactive.
“As more and more things come to the table, if the commission can be a part of the advisory aspect of that, it would make the commission effective,” said Goldberg. “If it’s strictly, ‘oh, you got something over there built’ and we’re expected to make magic, that will be tough.”
Gary Sandberg was the only councilman to vote against the formation of the commission.