Levee district development continues

By Beau Ebenezer

August 21, 2013 Updated Aug 22, 2013 at 1:06 PM CDT

EAST PEORIA, Ill. -- Shops and restaurants in East Peoria's Levee District are continuing to bring in customers throughout Central Illinois, providing them with a new shopping alternative.

"I used Ultra, the Ross store and Gordman's all at the other location, and this is just closer to my home," said Bartonville resident, Jaqcue Winston. "It works really well for me.

"This is much more convenient than going all the way to Peoria," said Pekin resident, Jamie Liedtke. "It is just kind of right down the road, and it is a nicer setup to. I don't have to go and re-park. I can just go from store to store."

After opening last week, Potbelly has joined stores like Gordman's, Target and Ross: Dress for Less in the downtown area.

Next on the list is Red Robin and Holiday Inn Express with Johnny's Steakhouse moving-in early September.

"From a regional standpoint, there are some balances that are being provided here," said East Peoria's Director of Planning and Community Development Ty Livingston. "There weren't the retail opportunities on this side of the river for many years, and certainly to have these opportunities here now we hear a lot of positive feedback."

One opportunity the city could not turn down was a nationally franchised fast-food restaurant.

Chick-Fil-A is now part of the Levee District and is expected to be constructed on the corner of Altorfer and Washington Street in 2015.

Recently city officials agreed to allow the restaurant to have a drive-through window, which originally was not to be allowed on Washington Street at all.

With more franchises being added to the Levee District, city planners are hoping their downtown vision does not diminish.

"So far, admittedly, it looks like a shopping center," said East Peoria's Commissioner of Accounts and Finances Gary Densberger. "We're still hoping to give it a more mixed-use flavor. We're hoping for a more residential component that we would love to talk about if someone has the desire to do that. "

City officials add that there are several spaces still available for future development which will include a civic plaza with pedestrian friendly walk-ways.

A new library and bank are set to open in October.