The Peoria-based real estate firm Cullinan Properties has introduced its Kickstart Program to its properties in Peoria and Pekin in an effort to promote new businesses in the area.

Cullinan officially launched Kickstart in the Greater Peoria Area earlier this month. The program offers new and small businesses a range of incentives and assistance to help offset startup costs and to help to entrepreneurs looking to establish small of start-up businesses. The incentives include discounted rents, construction financing, flexible rental terms marketing support and low risk early lease termination options, according to Anaise Berry, director of marketing and communications for Cullinan.

“We own and operate Quincy Mall,” she said. “We started the program there about two years ago, and the idea was kind of twofold: to fill vacancies that we have and also to give a boost to entrepreneurship.”

The Kickstart Program in Quincy appears to have been successful. A number of new businesses were established at Quincy Mall through the initiative.

“Once we got things going there, we wanted to bring (the central Illinois) area for the same purpose: to be able to fill some of the vacancies at various properties we have, but also to give somebody that kickstart they need to move into a space,” said Berry.

Cullinan has several properties at East Court Village in Pekin and near the Shops at Grand Prairie in Peoria that are available for potential tenants.

“At East Court Village, we have what we call East Court Village 1, part of the East Court Village Shopping Center,” said Kenneth Diana, a leasing and marketing associate with Cullinan. “We have several spaces (with) several varying square footages. We’re focused more on smaller spaces. We see them as great opportunities for mom and pop shops, versus these larger, 40,000 square foot spaces.”

The larger spaces are available for entrepreneurs wishing to open businesses such as power sports facilities or automobile dealerships, Diana added. He also believes bringing the Kickstart program to central Illinois can help area residents take advantage of a unique business environment.

“There (are) businesses here, like local mom and pop shops, that are nowhere else and are really specific to the area,” he said. “We wanted to work with them and break down barriers, whether they’re beginning or they’re growing. If they’re looking for a second location, we have the options and the availability to help them get into some of these properties throughout central Illinois.”

Bill Fleming, executive director of the Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce, was optimistic about the opportunities and benefits he believes the Kickstart program will bring to the community.

“The Kickstart Program is a great opportunity for the Pekin business community,” he said. “It provides local entrepreneurs and small businesses an additional menu of incentives that will improve their chance for success.”

Applications for the Kickstart Program are handled on a case-by-case basis, Berry said. 

“There is no real black-and-white answer as to who qualifies,” she said. “We ask for an initial application that’s very brief and can be found online. We’ll ask to see financials and a business plan, and we’ll want to meet one-on-one with that entrepreneur to talk about their business type. Our flexibility and our ability to offer various incentives is going to depend on that financial situation as well as the type of business. I would say it’s open to anybody.”

Berry believes the Kickstart program mirrors the company’s mission, “turning real estate ideas into reality,” by helping area entrepreneurs realize their ideas for new businesses.

“What we’re looking for is that entrepreneur who maybe has that vision or that idea of something they’ve always wanted to do,” she said. “Maybe it’s a franchise somebody has always wanted to open that doesn’t exists (in central Illinois). We’d like to be able to help them turn that into reality. We’re very hands-on. We like working with our clients in every aspect of the deal, from the very beginning all the way through to the end.”

In addition to incentives, Cullinan Properties will seek to provide new Kickstart businesses with marketing support and help them develop marketing plans aimed at helping them remain open, said Berry. While she acknowledged the importance and prominence of large, national retail stores, she said local businesses generate tax revenue that stays in the community and she considers local businesses to be the lifeblood of any community.

“These are the people who live in our community, who work in our community and who may have been raised in the community,” said Berry. “I think central Illinoisans like to be able to shop locally when they can. I think it’s too important for us to not help provide those opportunities to shop locally.”

For more information on the Kickstart Program, visit