The Counselors of Real Estate Advises Plan of Action for Redevelopment of Peoria’s McKinley and Harrison School Sites

PEORIA, IL, May 17, 2023 — A team of real estate professionals representing The Counselors of Real Estate®, a global consortium of commercial property advisors, proposed a real estate roadmap to stakeholders and elected officials convened by the Peoria Area Association of REALTORS® (PAAR) for the redevelopment of the McKinley and Harrison school sites in this central Illinois city of 113,000.

Today, PAAR leaders, Peoria Mayor Rita Ali, Peoria Housing Authority CEO Armeca Crawford, and 30 additional stakeholders discussed revitalization of the two neighborhoods based on findings of the CRE® Consulting Corps, the Counselors of Real Estate’s public service initiative.  A team of five real estate professionals visited Peoria last fall, toured the school sites, and met with several local officials including representatives from the city, public housing authority, public school district, community college, park district, social service groups, clergy, and neighborhood groups.

The Consulting Corps team developed a comprehensive and detailed report recommending strategies to spur reinvestment in the neighborhoods, including use of the city’s new homeownership program. Additionally, the report identified specific federal, state, and local resources and organizations that could work with the Mayor’s office in the redevelopment efforts. Read the full report here.

“The Peoria Area Association of REALTORS® works diligently to build relationships with leaders and stakeholders in the communities we serve and invest in projects that improve the health of those communities,” said PAAR CEO Jennifer Hamm.  “This project will be a catalyst for redevelopment, revitalization, and reinvestment opportunities.  Improving this area will improve the overall health of our entire community over time.”

The Counselors recommended a unified, community-wide effort to provide quality affordable housing, new business opportunities, and needed amenities, including utilizing Peoria’s new Down Payment Assistance Program to encourage investment from banks in those neighborhoods.  Leveraging the city’s existing Local Initiative Support Corporation is proposed as well.

Another recommendation is using equity-to-own or lease-to-own programs to help people who do not have a down payment but the capacity to rent first and build equity to transition to homeownership.  The former Harrison School site, specifically, could be redeveloped by a developer in partnership with the public housing authority to provide homes and needed community services.

The report states that a key factor is involvement from the private sector and business community – banks, retailers, and entrepreneurs – working with the existing community residents, nonprofit organizations, and the public sector.  Several of the group’s recommendations have already been implemented.

The Consulting Corps team was led by Peoria native Wendy Timm, CRE, of Dillon, CO, and St. Louis, MO.  Additional real estate advisors were Beth Beckett, CRE, Paoli, PA; Randal Dawson, CRE, Chicago, IL; Matt Rueff, CRE, Indianapolis, IN; and A. Lloyd Thomas, CRE, Temple, TX.

“Peoria’s 61605 neighborhood is among the nation’s most distressed zip codes, lacking access to fresh food, jobs, health care, and other amenities,” said Timm.  “However, the historic area has beautiful parks, is adjacent to downtown and the warehouse district, and houses diverse residents. The City of Peoria and Peoria Area Association of REALTORS® requested the CRE Consulting Corps bring its unbiased, objective perspective to reimagine the land and community following demolition of the two blighted school buildings.

“I’m pleased to have chaired this panel.  Our work is completed with the publication of the report.  This is personal for me.  I grew up in Peoria and am delighted to come back and give back and appreciate the partnership with PAAR and the National Association of REALTORS®. We appreciate the opportunity to help Peoria.”

The Peoria Area Association of REALTORS® serves more than 800 members.  Through its “Transforming Neighborhoods” program, the National Association of REALTORS® partnered with the Consulting Corps and issued a call for proposals for strategic real estate problem solving.  The project submitted by PAAR was selected.

“I want to thank the Counselors for the study that they diligently conducted.  I am amazed by the direction they have offered, and I want to state how excited we are to be a part of this process,” said Peoria Housing Authority CEO Armeca Crawford.

“These Counselors are experts who bring all kinds of expertise related to real estate, banking, and finance,” stated Mayor Rita Ali.  “It’s been a blessing to have them come into our community and have PAAR assemble key stakeholders from throughout our community to come together to explore ways that we might continue to create opportunity and spark revitalization.”

The Counselors of Real Estate® is a group of 1,000 advisors finding solutions to complex real estate challenges.  Counselors practice in 21 countries and offer expertise in more than 60 real estate disciplines across all asset classes.  Invited to membership by their peers, Counselors have earned the CRE® designation.  The CRE® Consulting Corps, a public service program of The Counselors of Real Estate, provides real estate analysis and action plans for not-for-profit organizations and government entities.