In the crazy world in which we live, a blog looking to make sense of it all.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Peoria Chalks Up Another Failed Investment

The recent announcement that Cubs Food is going to close its Midtown Plaza store offers yet more evidence to my prediction that Peoria is becoming another Detroit and will one day be one big ghetto.

Nearly ten years ago, tax increment financing was used to bring Midtown Plaza to fruition. The Peoria City Council overwhelmingly voted for it, with the exception of one councilman to which we all know whom. Eminent domain powers were used (or should we say abused) for the benefit of a private developer. Now the project has failed and it will cost the Peoria taxpayer over $5 million. That's a high price tag for a town running into deficits, a high crime rate, crumbling infrastructure and a failing school system. Meanwhile, the developers exit out unscathed.

All of this should have not happened. But this is Peoria and it did happen. And where are all these council people who approved this mess. Most are gone. For those that remained and voted for this thing, will they take responsibility and be hold accountable?  Most likely, no. 

One would think this teaches us a valuable lesson. But the Peoria City Council still does not learn. They recently approved building a new hotel in downtown Peoria next to the Pere Marquette. And again, if this project fails, the Peoria taxpayer will again be stuck paying off the debt. Meanwhile, developers will exit out unscathed.

Let's take a look at other investments this city's leadership has undertaken.  (1)Civic Center. After 25 years, it still couldn't turn a profit. And with the HRA tax due to sunset, some action needed to be taken to restore it.  The solution is to build a $55 million expansion into this money loser. Now we know the meaning of good money going after bad. (2) Gateway Building. I don't remember offhand, but doesn't this boondoggle lose over $100,000 a year for the city. (3) Riverplex. Has this thing made any money to date? One of the benefits was to allow poor people a place to exercise and get fit. But since it doesn't make money off of poor people, they were pushed to only being allowed to use the facility during off hours. The rich folk are off on the north end of town at a private health club. (4) Ballpark/O'Brien Field. Yep, we really needed more seating capacity from Minen Field. I look around the downtown ballpark and see the same amount of fans there that were there at the previous park. And those palm trees, money well spent.

And similar projects are in the works. The aforementioned hotel, Riverfront Museum and the Glen Oak Zoo addition. One has to admit, the city council's track record on these things suck. And how many more can the city take on until it financially devastates the community? I guess the answer to that is when all the tax revenues are used to pay down interest and debt on this crap and nothing is left for essentials.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Commoner: I believe the hotel will be a success, but the rest of the projects will end like Cubs.

February 06, 2009 4:33 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why did Cubs fail? A grocery store cannot make it on clients who live off food stamps, which sadly was the case here. The Council should look carefully into the neighborhoods where they go TIF, they should be able to see if a busines venture will be able to make it or half a chance to make it.

February 12, 2009 9:14 AM

Blogger Common Sense Dude said...

I hope for the sake of Peoria and its citizens, the hotel is a big success. And I really like the designs they have for the hotel. But based on historic occupancy rates and how other developments in the past turned out, I'm very skeptical. I'm afraid that the new hotel's occupancy rate will be about the same as the Pere's.

February 12, 2009 9:17 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is the first time I have read your blog and I am impressed. I can't wait to sit down one night and read more of your past entries and I look forward to see what else you will write about. I agree with a lot, if not everything you said! Thanks for speaking up about this.

March 29, 2009 2:45 PM


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