OPINION

Hunt: Lots of ‘new’ headed to Old Town Peoria

Posted 12/1/20

Don’t let the name mislead you – there are big, new additions on the horizon for Old Town Peoria!

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OPINION

Hunt: Lots of ‘new’ headed to Old Town Peoria

Posted

Don’t let the name mislead you – there are big, new additions on the horizon for Old Town Peoria!

In the delicate practice of transforming the historical legacy of our city, Old Town is rounding the corner with two projects that will support most everything that follows.

Valleywise Health has opening plans for the comprehensive health center that stands prominently on Grand Avenue. And a bit further west along Grand, a high quality mixed-use project will rise on the parcel where the Smitty’s building stood vacant for nearly 20 years.

For those of us who commute in and around the Old Town area regularly, both of these projects, in their own way, have tested our patience. The Valleywise facility has beaconed for most of 2020 with brightly painted new buildings and electronic signage on Grand. The Smitty’s parcel has done nothing to beacon us — the deteriorating structure and crumbling parking lot have caused many an eye to shutter.

Patience, they say is a virtue. Admittedly, not my strong suit. The up and down emotions that have followed prospective interest over the years in the privately owned former Smitty’s has now come to a grinding halt. SJ Acquisitions will invest heavily to move forward their development plans for Grand Commons, bringing to the south part of the property nearly 150 multifamily market-rate units. The second phase of SJ’s project will yield almost 15,000 square feet of commercial and retail space to the Grand Avenue frontage. We welcome both the housing and the commercial. Just as importantly, I’m thrilled to put the blight of the old building and parking lot firmly in our rearview mirror.

Valleywise finished their state-of-the-art facility earlier this year in anticipation of the intended spring, 2020 opening. History will not be kind to the year 2020, and it put a real damper on the medical center plans. Uncharted public health issues caused Valleywise to pause opening plans, in order to maximize medical staffing and efficiencies at their 17 existing facilities, including Valleywise Health Medical Hospital and Trauma Center, as well as the Arizona Burn Center.

So, we’ve waited.

The building seems daily to wink positively at us as a future reminder of a dampened pandemic and a bustling new medical outpost. The $78 million facility should open in early 2021. And just like that, outpatient operating rooms, an urgent care center, a full complement of imaging services, a dental clinic, a dialysis unit, and a full retail pharmacy with lab services will all open right here in our community.

Lack of patience aside, these two projects that bookend the central Peoria Old Town area were worth the wait.

Nearly 500 new jobs, 35 of which are licensed medical professionals with great pay come along with the health center opening. Market-rate housing brings foot traffic and families that eat out, bank and shop locally. These quality developments on what was once rolling tumbleweed and crumbling parking lot can be nothing short of pure positive.
Some days in the past several months, we all have had to muster the energy to look past news and vitriol that could have sucked optimism right out of us. These projects have sustained my view, and they will light our trail going forward. While we hasten to put this year of challenges behind us, the stage is set for bright days ahead in Old Town.

Editor’s note: Councilwoman Vicki Hunt represents the Acacia District in south Peoria.

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