East Peoria’s Levee District christened

EAST PEORIA — While its anchors were already open for business — Costco last year, Target last week, Gordman’s last Wednesday — the Levee District, East Peoria’s new downtown, officially opened Friday morning.

It’s not “open” until somebody cuts a ribbon.

“Today is the christening of the Levee District with the ceremony that officially kicks off the name,” said East Peoria Mayor Dave Mingus. “It is an exciting time in our history.”

Before the speeches and the cutting of the ribbon, Chris West, the chief operating officer of the project’s developer, Cullinan Properties LTD, named several new tenants that were coming to the Levee District. Joining the three anchors in the 500,000-square-foot development — along with Ulta Beauty, Ross Dress for Less, Mattress FIRM, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Heartland Dental Care — will be Potbelly Sandwich Shop, GNC General Nutrition Center and Tequila’s Mexican Bar and Grill.

There’s still a lot of retail space to fill. Of the 500,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and office space in the development atop 86 acres of industrial brownfield donated by Caterpillar Inc., 400,000 square feet has been filled, West said.

“We’re close to getting additional tenants,” West said. “Expect more announcements soon.”

Ulta opened Friday morning. Tequila’s is expected to open in April, GNC on May 8, and Potbelly and Red Robin sometime this summer.

West said that Peoria retail stores need not fear the competition in East Peoria. Several of the stores in the Levee District — such as Gordman’s, Target and Ulta — have been open for a long time in Peoria.

Dignitaries and the media were invited to the event Friday morning; the public is invited to a celebration of the Levee District on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The celebration will feature activities for the entire family and a drawing at noon for a $500 shopping spree. The community celebration will take place along the pedestrian promenade in the parking lot at 400 W. Washington St., East Peoria.

The district is not just retail and restaurants. Still under construction are a new Fondulac District Public Library, a 137-room Holiday Inn & Suites and a 54,000-square-foot Hometown Community Bank.