North Peorian hits roadblocks in East Peoria plans

Jeanette Kendall

About two years ago, Mark Petersen drove by the Shoppes at Grand Prairie and noticed the lack of a hotel amid the new developments.

Petersen, a North Peoria businessman, who, since 1991, has owned Petersen Health Care, told his work colleagues that if someone did not develop a hotel by the Shoppes at Grand Prairie, he was going to develop one.

“Mark’s a visionary. He seems to know what will work and where,” said Doug Currier, executive vice president of marketing for Petersen Cos.

Today, Peterson owns nearly 90 nursing homes and assisted living facilities, mostly in Illinois. He also owns three hotels in Peoria, one in Monmouth and is building one in Morton. He may own a sixth hotel in East Peoria pending the city council’s approval. As of press time Tuesday, the council had yet to vote on the second reading for Petersen’s proposal for a Holiday Inn.

Petersen Cos. has plans to open a 143-room newer model Holiday Inn on 2 acres of city-owned property between the Bob Michel Bridge and Granite City Restaurant. The newly constructed Embassy Suites hotel is nearby on the other side of the Bob Michel Bridge.

The new full-service Holiday Inn will be the first of its kind in the area, said Currier. The Intercontinental Hotel Group, which owns Holiday Inn, is focusing on a new image for the hotels, Currier said, adding they are raising the quality threshold.

The East Peoria Holiday Inn plans call for a 6-story building with an indoor pool, a restaurant and a patio along the riverfront path. Joe Hosek, director of development for Petersen Cos., said the business would be “very contemporary” and “upscale;” however, Currier said the hotel is “mid-scale” when it comes to the type of clientele it will attract.

“This will be a new market for a new customer,” Currier said.

“What we like, you’re going to be able to look right through the front door to the river,” said city attorney Dennis Triggs.

Hosek and Triggs said the Holiday Inn would be a “good compliment” to the Embassy Suites Hotel.

Hosek said East Peoria was chosen as a site for their hotel because, “East Peoria’s a good community. It’s right on the river.” He added that there are also many restaurants in the area, which support hotels and vice versa.

East Peoria city officials sent out requests for proposals from developers for the 2-acre parcel about 100 days ago. City commissioner Gary Densberger said they received two proposals. Triggs said Embassy Suites Hotel owner John Q. Hammons also received a request for proposal, but did not return one by the deadline Feb. 29. Triggs added that Hammons has been aware of the Holiday Inn plans since March.

At the July 8 city council meeting, commissioner Mike Unes said Petersen is a local developer who is looking forward to seeing his hotel move forward.

“Mark, your reputation precedes you, and we’re very happy to have you build in East Peoria,” Unes said.

Petersen Cos.’ attorney John Elias said, if the hotel is approved, site preparation would begin this fall, with construction starting in late spring.

“We’ve maximized the use of the land,” said Triggs, adding that Logan’s, Granite City and the Holiday Inn will share parking space.

Hosek said their feasibility study revealed there is room for another hotel in East Peoria.

Not so fast

Those who attended the East Peoria City Council meeting July 15 expecting to see or hear Hammons were disappointed.

Hammons did not make an appearance. In fact, the issue Hammons would have addressed the council about was pulled from the agenda.

That issue is a Holiday Inn proposal for the East Peoria riverfront on 2-acres of land owned by the city.

The parcel is near the Bob Michel Bridge, Granite City restaurant and the Embassy Suites Hotel.

Embassy Suites general manager Joe Lomonaco attended the meeting. He said he was not aware the second reading for the Holiday Inn was pulled.

When asked if Hammons was coming to the meeting, Lomonaco, said, “not today.”

Likewise, Petersen Co.’s attorney John Elias said he found out at the last minute that the second reading, which would have set into motion the proceedings for the Holiday Inn, was pulled from the agenda.

Commissioner Tim Jeffers said some final details were being worked out concerning the hotel proposal. He did not provide any specifics.

“I wouldn’t view it as we’re buying time for Mr. Hammons,” Jeffers said. “This is a multi-million dollar agreement ... I think we’re 95 percent of the way there.”

Jeffers added the agenda item was pulled and the motion halted because it had “a lot to do with people’s schedules and travel.”

Petersen Co.’s president and owner Mark Petersen and his group were in attendance.

Elias said they were ready to do their presentation and to move forward with the document “as is.” Elias said he did not know what final details city officials are focusing on.

At the conclusion of the council meeting, Jeffers said, “I do what’s best for the city of East Peoria. We’re not here to champion business A over business B.”