Peoria community members hoping to revitalize south end area, wanting to add a park across from rec center

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PEORIA, Ill (WMBD) – Anyone walking down to Peoria’s south end, specifically Martin Street, will inevitably run into the fun and the flawed parts of the area.

There’s a blatant contrast from the decorated Proctor Recreation Center area to the abandoned, charred, and damaged houses on the other side of the street.

“This is unacceptable,” Hedy Elliott, president of Friends of Proctor, said. “It’s not only an eyesore, it promotes crime, it’s been vandalized, it’s a danger to the children playing in the area.”

Elliott said she and others want to inspire people to come to the south end and bring investors and homeowners to the area. She said community members have come together with plans in motion to revitalize and re-energize the location.

“Our project is Potent Gratitude Park,” Elliott said. “We have a small but mighty group of people working to change the perimeter of Proctor Center.”

She said those involved include Friends of Proctor, The Marcellus Sommerville Family Foundation, Bob Woolsey, Sovereign Grace Missionary Baptist Church, Build Peoria, and other private individuals.

Elliott said changing the perimeter of the Proctor Center would include demolishing three houses next to Sovereign Grace Missionary Baptist Church. She said they would transform that field into an outdoor green space.

“It would be an outdoor space for people to fellowship, to have an outdoor cook-out, to have outdoor meetings, and public meetings, family gatherings,” Elliott said. “And really be a welcoming space to get people to come to the southside instead of us going to other places to fellowship.”

Marcellus Sommerville, CEO of Peoria’s Friendship House, said he has a personal connection to the project.

“This project was brought to me and my family a few months ago and I thought it was a great opportunity for us to lift the family foundation to new heights so I was all aboard on it,” Sommerville said. “I grew up playing ball down here, so I just think it comes full circle being a Peoria kid myself.”

Sommerville said upgrading the area will leave a lasting impact on those who live there for years to come.

“It allows them to dream, it allows them to see a space that is welcoming and beautiful,” Sommerville said. “Maybe someday they’ll have aspirations to do the same on another end of town.”

Both Elliott and Sommerville said the project is one of four finalists for a $50,000 Build Peoria Grant. Elliott said the goal is to use the grant money to get them into phase 1 of the project by the summer.

She said she hopes the community votes for the project to win and help re-shape the area, saying they’re determined to make it happen one way or another.

Other projects in the running for the grant include Peoria Stadium Pathway, Together We Play Accessible Playground, and R Lamar Academy Gardens at Harrison Homes.

The deadline to vote for these projects is June 19.

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