Elected Officials Complete 1st District Neighborhood Tours By Denise Jackson, 1st District Peoria City Council

We did it! Eight consecutive Saturdays of touring areas within the 1st District. It was a collaboration that God made possible with our gracious partners Zion Baptist Church, Pentecostal Church of Jesus Christ, Friendship House, The Potters House, Grace Baptist Church, Heaven’s View, St. Paul Baptist Church, Cornerstone Gospel, New Beginnings and Liberty Baptist.

Residents from throughout the city of Peoria including Districts 4 and 5 were among those on the inaugural tour. Here are some of their survey comments:

“I appreciate the opportunity to attend this tour and learn more about the history, trials and opportunities within the 1st District. I applaud the efforts being done and the volunteers time, great time.”

“This tour was so knowledgeable for me. We need to keep our city clean and presentable to draw more people to our great city.”

Peoria Park Board Trustee Alex Sierra teamed up with me for the project. Many of the tour participants were not aware of the challenges facing 1st District residents. It was important to give them a close-up view of the old Harrison and McKinley Schools both of which must be demolished. “The biggest thing was I wasn’t aware of the closed schools and the problems with all the vacant properties and the problems with tires,” said Paul Beiersdorf.

We cannot continue to kick that can down the road when we have an opportunity to meet these challenges now. Putting it off will only make the problems worse and much more expensive.

Residents also got a chance to see first hand illegal dumping of tires, boarded up homes and deteriorating roads. Cassie and Curt Meiss of Morton, said it was important to take the tour.

“It’s really important to see what’s going on, on the South Side and all over the 1st District, the great things that are happening as well as the things that need to keep happening. I think job training and beautifying the area by demolishing the old buildings,” said Cassie.

“Awareness is the first step to change. It made me aware of the desperate needs, the streets, the housing, lots that need to be cleared to make things more presentable and then the good things that are happening,” said Curt.

Another participant Corey Thomas, said it’s time for everyone to get involved. “It’s gonna take us and the people who live in the community to stand up and assist you in building a better 1st District,” Thomas said.

The one hour and 15-minute tour took us through the Warehouse District and into the North Valley. We visited the Nannie Johnson Community Center owned by New Beginnings Church. The community center sits inside of what use to be the former Kingman School. The community center has a robotics program, computer lab among other activities for families. New Beginnings Pastor Marty Johnson and staff have provided an excellent example of repurposing the former school building.

The North Valley Farmers Market quickly became a popular destination stop during the tours. Many residents were not even aware of its existence.

We hope that by increasing awareness of challenges and assets that there will be more compassion and empathy when it comes to securing funding to help rebuild our community. We as a city cannot come to our full potential until we revitalize each area throughout Peoria and that includes 61605, considered among the poorest zip codes in the country. Thank you everyone who participated and committed to helping improve our communities.