Brand-new innovation district will bring business, life to downtown Peoria


PEORIA, ILL. — A major step is being taken to bring businesses and entrepreneurs to Peoria.

In the heart of downtown Peoria, an Innovation District will be created. After approving the Innovation District Tuesday night at Peoria City Council, leaders are ecstatic to see where this will take the city in the future.

This whole idea came from Peoria Innovation Alliance Executive Director Jake Hamann.

“We’ve actually been talking about this many years. I think it’s just come into fruition here in the last few months as we’ve been having conversations with the city. To see it be unanimously approved from the council has been very exciting,” Hamann said.

Born and raised in Pekin and an Illinois State University graduate, his central Illinois roots motivate him to improve the River City.

“I have seen innovation districts happen in other communities, and lead to a lot of success. The concentrated activity leads to more services that are needed. But also these companies growing, bringing investment dollars,” Hamann said.

City leaders say a new transformation will take this city to new heights.

“Peoria is a place of innovation,” said Peoria Riverfront Museum CEO John Morris, welcoming everyone to the Museum for the Wednesday morning press conference.

Morris gave the crowd a brief history lesson on the city of Peoria, saying innovation has been a part of this city for thousands of years.

“15,000 years ago a glacial lake existed to the north of us. That glacial lake broke free in a geological event known as the Kankakee Torrent. And a wall of water 150 feet high carved out, within a matter of days, the greatest waterway in Illinois. The Illinois River,” Morris said.

“The reason I tell you this is because the Illinois River was not created over thousands of years. The Illinois River was created in an instant in a geological event. Do you know what the major city on the Illinois River is? The largest and oldest city on the Illinois River is? Peoria!” Morris jointly exclaimed with the crowd in attendance.

“What is about to happen, in the spirit of innovation, does not have to take years and decades. Think of this in the way we think of the Kankakee Torrent in carving out that river. In a matter of days, in an instant, the spirit of innovation can take us to a new river. The spirit of the future of this community,” Morris added.

State Rep. Ryan Spain (R-Illinois) says this will change the city of Peoria forever.

“Today is a big day! If you think about the transformation of our economy, it’s always been based around some kind of innovation. Whether it’s agricultural innovation, whiskey distillation, manufacturing, healthcare. We continue to innovate and I think the future of Peoria will really rely on innovation,” Spain said.

Rep. Spain adds more jobs will be created in the downtown area.

“There’s a lot of research that comes out of this community. We need to that research here and use it to create jobs that are part of a new economic future for Peoria,” Spain said.

While no new businesses have announced they are coming to the Innovation District, Hamann says this location will be perfect for startups and entrepreneurs to get their feet off the ground.

“There’s already a lot of institutional things and things that are already in place that will feed really well and make it really attractive to other companies and startups,” Hamann said.

The rectangular district is located in downtown Peoria. The four outlining streets are Main, Water, Harrison Street, and Jefferson Avenue.

The Peoria Innovation Alliance is a 501c3 organization dedicated to fostering a collaborative movement to reposition the Greater Peoria region and change its narrative to one of inclusion, optimism, and progress through the support and celebration of innovation, entrepreneurship, and startup activity.

The mission of the Peoria Innovation Alliance is to share our region’s innovation history, promote our progress and vision for the future, and enable and empower the next round of innovators, entrepreneurs, and startups that call Greater Peoria home.

If you are interested in joining the Peoria Innovation Alliance, or have a business you are interested in bringing to downtown Peoria, you can contact the Innovation Alliance here.

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