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PEORIA, AZ-City leaders will launch a new study next week to focus on strategies for Downtown development and redevelopment. The study, anticipated to take about a year to complete, will present a variety of recommendations and strategies for many factors, including incorporating mass transit and determining best uses for vacant big-boxes that line the streets.

“When the 101 was completed, a lot of the retailers relocated there, leaving these vacant stores,” says Steve Prokopek, economic development director for the City of Peoria. “Before we can attract private development to deal with them and other things here, we need a solid redevelopment strategy.”

Although Peoria is a relatively new city, Prokopek says Downtown is where it all began. These days, it is a focal point for government offices, but Prokopek says it could be a lot more.

“We’re focused on making sure this area doesn’t become blighted,” Prokopek says. “We want to create a pedestrian environment that will attract people to the area.” He tells GlobeSt.com that previous plans have focused on integrated zoning with other public sector projects, including the expansion of city hall at 8401 W. Monroe St. and a new performing arts center, which was completed last year at a cost of $13 million.

Officials also are continuing to move forward on the renovation of Osuna Park along 83rd Avenue. And soon, Phoenix-based Ellman Cos. will start dirt work on the 126-acre Peoria Place at 83rd Avenue and Mountain View Road.

While these projects underway, leaders want to focus their new plan on the future role of Downtown. “We want to make this neighborhood nicer and allow people to have an environment they can enjoy, one that has amenities that are already there like the library, theater and coffee shop,” Prokopek adds. “We’re not trying to develop a 24/7 Downtown here as much as we’re trying to attract more amenities and diversity.”

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