East Peoria’s new downtown dubbed ‘The Levee District’

EAST PEORIA — East Peoria’s new downtown dubbed ‘The Levee District’
By SCOTT HILYARD of the Journal Star

On March 1, 2012, Don Taylor was stopped at a traffic light in front of Walgreens when a radio voice announced a contest, sort of, soliciting suggestions about what to name East Peoria’s emergent downtown area. What followed was a light bulb moment.

“As kids we used to play ball down on Taylor Street and the Farm Creek levee ran along behind there,” said Taylor, 40, a resident of the city since the fourth grade. “We just always thought of it kind of as the levee district.”

Five minutes later, he texted his submission to City Hall and now, 10 months after that, he’s being credited as the official originator of the area’s new, official name. Call the new downtown area anything you want – “downtown” certainly comes to mind – but from this moment forward, the area that was until recently 90 acres of factory, industry and ugly will be known as the Levee District.

“It represents the historic aspect of the area,” said Mayor Dave Mingus, who along with the four commissioners on the City Council helped winnow the list of 264 suggestions to a single selection. “The levee is the common thread that ties the district together.” And it’s better than “The Tractapillar Center,” another entry on the long list of suggested names that range from short (“The Hub”), to long (“East Peoria Vision . . . Where Peoria Community, Commerce and Technology Meet”), to abstract (“New Era Plaza”) to literal (“East Peoria Shopping, Library, Civic Center, Banking, Lodging & Multi-Residential Area”) to ironic (“Levy District”) to are-you-kidding (“The Lasso”).

The Levee District (see, it’s familiar already) will feature a new Fondulac District Library, a civic plaza, a Holiday Inn hotel, retail stores, an MCB/Hometown Bank multistory office building, additional office space, a Red Robin gourmet hamburgers restaurant and multiresidential buildings. A Costco opened in November; Target is scheduled to open in March. City Administrator Tom Brimberry said he likes the connectivity of the name to the physical space the district will occupy when fully built. “It ties the topography to the trail system to the area with a connectivity that is appealing,” Brimberry said. “It’s unique. No place else is going to be the Levee District.”

The contest offered no prize incentives. No free annual memberships to Costco, no Red Robin burgers, no gift certificates to Gordman’s, no overnight packages at the Holiday Inn.

“That’s OK,” Taylor said. “It’s still pretty neat to think that you’re the one getting credit for naming an entirely new area of the city.”

Scott Hilyard can be reached at 686-3244 or shilyard@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @scotthilyard.

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