3/13/2023 8:33 AM

For more information, please contact Jennifer Hamm at (309) 688-8591 or



PEORIA, Ill. — Redevelopment of the old McKinley and Harrison school sites in the next five years could bolster the city of Peoria – if both the public and private sectors join forces and make it a priority right now, according to a new report coordinated by the Peoria Area Association of REALTORS® (PAAR).

These former Peoria bright spots in their heydays have fallen on hard times in the past few decades. But a unified, community-wide effort could provide quality affordable housing, new businesses and needed amenities, as explained in the findings of The Counselors of Real Estate Consulting Corps (CRE). Through coordination by PAAR and Illinois REALTORS®, these nationwide commercial redevelopment experts met with a wide range of community leaders and then proposed several recommendations, including using the city’s new Down Payment Assistance Program to encourage new investment from banks to those neighborhoods. Leveraging the city’s existing Local Initiative Support Corporation is proposed as well.

“The vitality of all Peoria is contingent upon the redevelopment of these communities and that is why we focused on bringing together the public and private sectors to make a commitment to revive these historic neighborhoods,” said Jennifer Hamm, PAAR Chief Executive Officer.

Over a five-month period, Hamm of PAAR, with assistance from Illinois REALTORS®, identified and brought together local community leaders (clergy, police, etc.), the public housing authority, elected officials at all levels as well as large company representatives, entrepreneurs and others to determine the best and fastest path to redeveloping these two properties. They then contacted The Counselors of Real Estate Consulting Corps (CRE) who came to Peoria last October and toured the school sites and visited with many local stakeholders including representatives from the city, public housing authority, public school district, community college, park district, social service groups, local clergy and neighborhood groups.

The result was a comprehensive and detailed report by CRE’s experts recommending a number of strategies to spur reinvestment in the neighborhood, 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 to revive these neighborhoods. Find the full report on the PAAR website.

“There is an unmatched sense of pride in these two neighborhoods. The residents are ready to revive and rebuild their neighborhoods, not by gentrification but by restoring the existing homes for the existing residents and enhancing their lives by bringing industry and retail back to those areas,” said Wendy Timm, CRE, Consulting Corps team leader and Peoria native.

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 something first and build up 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.

But the key is involvement from the business community – banks, retailers and entrepreneurs – working with the existing community residents to help make their dream come to life.

“The common denominator for all of us involved is focusing on improving the quality of life for local residents and making good use of the now vacant properties to address each neighborhood’s needs,” said Illinois REALTORS® Governmental Affairs Director Kristie Engerman, who helped coordinate the project.

“Everyone deserves the opportunity to achieve the American Dream of homeownership and live in a vibrant community,” Engerman said. “That would benefit all of us here in Peoria.”


The Peoria Area Association of REALTORS® is the “Voice of Real Estate: for the Greater Peoria region with over 800 members engaged in all facets of the real estate industry. PAAR advocates for all private property owners. REALTORS® are experts in guiding you in the decision to buy or sell; look for the R. More information on purchasing a home in the Peoria region can be found at

Illinois REALTORS® is a voluntary trade association whose more than 50,000 members are engaged in all facets of the real estate industry. In addition to serving the professional needs of its members, the association works to protect and advance the profession, homeowners, and private property rights by engaging with elected officials at the local and state level.

Counselors of Real Estate® are trusted advisors finding solutions to complex real estate challenges. Experienced, innovative, and credentialed problem solvers, 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 prestigious CRE® designation, with only 1,000 professionals holding the CRE® credential worldwide. 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.


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