East Peoria proposes extending enterprise zone along Route 8

Donelle Pardee Whiting

With the upcoming construction work on Illinois Route 8 through Sunnyland, East Peoria officials said they want to create a new enterprise zone along that corridor.

Despite the stretch of Route 8/Washington Road from the East Peoria Convention Center to Summit Road being within East Peoria corporate limits, officials need approval from four of Washington’s  taxing bodies — Washington Community High School District 308, Washington School District 50 (Beverly Manor and John L. Hensey schools), the Washington District Library and Washington Township — because the Sunnyland area is part of Washington Township.

Ty Livingston, East Peoria’s planning and community development director, said Washington Township extends west along Route 8 to the East Peoria Event Center.

“There is an opportunity here,” Livingston said, adding he expects the new enterprise zone to revitalize the Sunnyland commercial district.

The Illinois Department of Transportation is expected to begin construction along the section of Route 8 that is included in the proposed enterprise zone.

IDOT will be completely redoing the stretch of Route 8 that was not included in work done further into East Peoria several years ago.

In addition to redoing the road, IDOT will be removing several of the medians. Some of the medians will be replaced, according to plans.

In addition, the plans call for 6- to 7-foot-wide sidewalks on either side.

“There will be better accessibility to businesses along Route 8” once construction is complete, Livingston said, adding the timing is good.

All the property in the proposed zone is already zoned for commercial use, he said, adding that the idea is to give incentives for new businesses to come in and current ones to stay.

“It is good for both East Peoria and Washington,” Livingston said, adding it is a valuable tool.

In addition, Livingston said, “We are trying to tie it in with the Summit Drive project.”

Regardless of the East Peoria City Council’s decision, IDOT will redo the Summit Drive/Route 8 intersection, he said.

East Peoria officials tried once before to get Washington taxing body approval for an extended enterprise zone.

Last year, Washington city administrator Bob Morris said the proposed zone included a portion of land along Grange Road where a proposed retirement facility was expected to be built.

However, the four Washington taxing bodies involved did not agree to the proposed zone.

Morris said it was because there were feelings that it would be more of a benefit to East Peoria, but not helpful to Washington.

Livingston said last year’s proposal could have opened the door for the possibility of a big box store to move in and compete with Washington’s commercial growth.

However, this time the extended zone would only be good for both cities, he added.

The lots are fairly shallow lots and would attract more local small businesses and small chains.

If the affected Washington entities agree, members of the East Peoria City Council would send a copy of the proposed ordinance for their approval before sending on to the next step at the state level.

All new enterprise zones must be approved by the state before the interested city can enact the final ordinance.

Enterprise zones allow for a five-year property tax abatement in an effort to encourage commercial growth.