Welcome To 'Civic Center Square'

There's renewed hope in downtown Peoria.

Officials cut the ribbon this week on the new Courtyard by Marriott, located at the intersection of Northeast Monroe and Main Street. While the Courtyard, which sits adjacent to the historic Pere Marquette, has been open for about a month, the ribbon cutting ceremony ostensibly served as a symbol for the launch of an area known now as Civic Center Square.

Anchored by the Civic Center, the Pere Marquette, and the Courtyard, city officials hope Civic Center Square changes the game for Peoria and its quest to draw in bigger and better business conventions. With the new Courtyard also comes new retail opportunities, specifically in spaces already carved out around the hotel.

"We have several different developers looking at several different locations within three or four blocks of the Civic Center," said Mayor Jim Ardis.

Ardis says the Courtyard-Pere Marquette tandem is only the beginning; the city is counting on the Four Points by Sheraton and a couple other potential hotel developers to welcome new visitors to the heart of the city as well.

"When that puts us into that range of having a thousand rooms within walking distance of the Civic Center, that puts us another step up," Ardis said.

The $100 million downtown hotel development has been marred by months of delays and controversy. The biggest, and most recent, concern happened a few months ago, when news broke that the hotel developer was facing financial trouble in Tazewell County.

The hotels also went through a much-publicized management change, which came at the request of the developer, Gary Matthews. Matthews said while Marriott is a quality company, it was not catering to the specific needs of the market well enough. The City Council, after several lengthy discussions, ultimately allowed FHG to take over the day-to-day management of both the Pere Marquette and Courtyard, even though the Marriott flag still flies over both properties.

City officials say the aforementioned money woes and management change have had no apparent negative impact on the hotel project, nor has it put at risk the city's $36 million investment in it. Now that the Courtyard is finally open, it seems everyone at City Hall can breathe a much-needed sigh of relief. 

"It's beautiful. It's a gorgeous addition," Ardis said.

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