|View of downtown Peoria, IL, looking west across Peoria Lake. Source: city-data.com|
I wanted to publicly acknowledge a personal change that will happen in the very near future. Starting this Monday, I will start as the director for the Tri County Regional Planning Commission in Peoria, IL. TCRPC is the federally mandated metropolitan planning organization for the Peoria metropolitan area, and I’m honored to take on the role.
The last year has mostly been spent with me doing consulting work for cities and nonprofits in the Chicago area, which I do find incredibly fulfilling. However, this new move is a great opportunity to bring what I’ve learned throughout my career to a different platform, and I’m excited to give it a shot.
I’ve learned a lot about Peoria since my hire. I think it’s fair to say that Peoria is the economic capital and urban center of central Illinois, a region of 2 million people in the middle of the state. Being the international headquarters for a Fortune 50 (yes, 50) company like Caterpillar can do that for a city. Peoria enjoys many of the amenities and benefits of much larger cities, and maintains its Midwestern Heartland character. But it’s also fair to say that in this era of urban renaissance for our nation’s largest cities, no one has yet to really shift their focus to the growth and revitalization of metros with less than, say, 1 million in population. Peoria, with just under 400,000 in its metro area, fits that description. Metros of similar size cannot look to New York or San Francisco for answers; Peoria cannot even really look 130 miles to the northeast to Chicago for answers. Midsize metros have strengths and concerns of their own. I believe Peoria is ready to be a leader in the exploration and development of solutions.
What I don’t know yet is what it will mean for this blog. I intend to keep writing, but the new gig will definitely be the priority. Two things will be clear for the blog going forward — the focus may naturally shift to address the issues and concerns related to midsize Midwestern metros like Peoria, and I’ll work hard to ensure that potential conflicts of interests related to my new role and what’s written here do not arise.
For now I’ll continue to play this by ear. Continue to look for more very soon from the Corner Side Yard.