COLUMNS

Is East Peoria still the business oasis it has been touted as?

DeWayne Bartels

Anyone living in Peoria for more than 10 minutes has heard, It's hard to do business in Peoria. Now, East Peoria that's a different story."

Many a Peoria-based company has moved to the business fertile fields of East Peoria, where leaders gush with praise and tear up the rules to attract business.

So, what in the world is going on with North Peoria businessman Mark Petersen's efforts to open a Holiday Inn near the new Embassy Suites?

Jeanette Kendall, editor of the East Peoria Times-Courier has been following this story. Her story on this situation is posted right above this blog entry.

Let us review some of the facts as Kendall laid them out.

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.

Petersen Cos. has plans to open a 143-room newer model Holiday Inn on two 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 plans call for a 6-story building with an indoor pool, a restaurant and a patio along the riverfront path.

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

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.

Everything must have seemed just wonderful for Petersen.

But, not so fast.

At the July 15 East Peoria City Council meeting the greasy  wheels of business ground to a halt. Hammons was a no-show.

Back to Kendall's story

The issue Hammons would have addressed the council about 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.”

Oh, come on!

Can anyone spell f-a-v-o-r-t-i-s-m?

Maybe living in the shadow of hard-to-do-business-in Peoria has begun to rub off on little old East Peoria.