What does addressing storm water runoff have to do with improving quality of life? Everything, according to city government officials.
Mayor Jim Ardis announced a series of green infrastructure projects in the works for downtown Peoria Thurs. The initiatives, like streetscape redesigns and a grant program for repurposing vacant lots, aim to improve the look of industrial, blighted areas.
Esthetics aside, the projects are developed by the city’s Innovation Team, or iTeam, that’s focused on creating solutions to address the city’s combined sewer overflow. Mayor Ardis calls it,"the biggest challenge our city has ever faced."
"So we're leveraging this CSO infrastructure investment to create a greener and stronger city of Peoria," Ardis said.
The city still awaits a consent decree from the federal government to move forward with the implementation of other ways to tackle the CSO issue, like billing residents and businesses based on square footage of impervious area, or non-absorbent surface.
The iTeam is funded through a $1.5 million grant from the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Innovation Teams Program. iTeam Director Anthony Corso says the hope is for the green projects to eventually pay for themselves.
“With the ideas and the grants that we can bring, and the dollars that hopefully we can save for some of these initiatives," Corso said.
Peoria Public Works Director Mike Rogers says the addition of trees and alternatives to vehicle transportation creates a more vibrant and safe neighborhood. Rogers says the benefits would be "immediate."
“We’re looking at local and regional companies actually doing this kind of work. So from an economic development standpoint, we should immediately see that,” Rogers said.
The initiatives include:
- Green Streets Pilot - a project to redesign streets to incorporate more trees and accommodate more pedestrian and bike traffic, "while diverting storm water from the combined sewers"
- PeoriaCorps - a youth workforce training program in green infrastructure maintenance
- Green Your Block - a grant program where applicants supply a vision and labor, while grant covers the materials. Corso says an amount has not yet been determined.
- A Natural Fit - an education program for kids age 6-12 on native plants and green infrastructure
- Walk the Block - an effort to promote public health and mitigate crime. Two pilot sites selected for this are Proctor Recreation Center and East Bluff Community Center