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Freilinger to head Peoria Downtown Development Corp.

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Freilinger

MIchael Freilinger has experience developing downtown areas in other cities, Des Moines chief among them. He believes that will serve him well in his new position as president of the newly formed Downtown Development Corporation of Peoria.

Freilinger was announced Monday as the head of the new agency that will be charged with transforming Peoria’s downtown and the Warehouse District as work in that continues.

“I had lots of opportunities to work on that type of development in the past so I decided to pursue the position. It seemed like an excellent fit and it gives me the opportunity to stay here,” Freilinger said.

Freiling, 54, an Iowa native, was Tazewell County Administrator since April 2012 and recently announced he was leaving that job to become city administrator in Independence, Iowa. However, the Peoria downtown position came available within the 30-day period he could opt out of the Independence job and he chose to do so.

While his tenure in Tazewell County was relatively brief, it was successful. Freilinger developed the first strategic plan for Tazewell County, successfully negotiated an expansion agreement with Monsanto for a $25 million expansion, and helped develop a solution for the Pekin landfill.

Over the last 25 years Freilinger’s career includes more than 10 years in executive leadership positions in economic development, strategic planning, fiscal management, and downtown redevelopment. Before coming to Tazewell County he was a senior partner at Strategic Solutions Partners, County Manager of Osceola County, Florida and County Administrator for Polk County, Iowa.

In Osceola County and Polk County, Freilinger was credited with recruiting new and expanding existing businesses, generating hundreds of new jobs in Osceola County and over 2,500 new jobs in Polk County.

Chris Glynn, chairman of the Downtown Development Corp. board of directors, said he is confident Freilinger has the leadership and experience needed for the DDC position. “His knowledge of the Greater Peoria region partnered with his background in economic development makes him the ideal candidate to lead the DDC.  As a recognized area leader, Michael’s ability to collaborate well with others will help drive the changes needed in Downtown Peoria,” Glynn said.

Freilinger said he recognizes the work that has transpired to get downtown redevelopment and the Warehouse District to where it is today. “We now have the resources to turn that vision into a reality by fostering a vibrant and thriving community in Downtown Peoria and the warehouse district,” he said.

He cautioned that it will not happen overnight so patience will be needed. “This task will be significant. We will take it one day at a time and it will start to build momentum. Then things can start to happen more quickly,” he said.  

Freilinger said he did not find the plans already in place to be daunting. “I’m supportive of what is being proposed. It’s a good plan. But it does take time to implement,” he said.

He added he feels excited about the Warehouse District and its plans, including the projected demand to add 200 to 220 residential units to the region each year over the next five years. While he isn’t working with any other set time frame, he said the public will start seeing progress and hearing announcements within a year.

“There can be a misunderstanding with the public about how long some of these things can take so we will communicate what we are doing. And there are things we will continue to do or start to do in the interim to keep the public interested in the potential for our downtown,” Freilinger.

For now Freilinger will be working alone. Support services will be provided by the CEO Council.

The CEO Council last year agreed to take on downtown-warehouse development as one of its initial areas of focus after research showed Peoria may be the largest American city without a downtown organization, according to a news release from the DDC.

“Best practices suggest that having a DDC is effective for accomplishing the goals and objectives of a downtown redevelopment effort. The CEO Council successfully launched the DDC as a stand-alone organization to serve as the leading entity to guide and sustain development in downtown Peoria. The DDC will ultimately become the organizational toolbox to coordinate development, management, marketing, and be a champion for development in Peoria’s downtown and warehouse district,” the release said.

The DDC, it added, will:

  • Serve as the leading organization that champions, guides and sustains growth in Peoria’s downtown and warehouse district through best-practices in relationship, business and economic development.
  • Address the supply of suitable downtown housing, recognizing the significant demand. An independent report estimates the need for 200+ units per year, for at least the next 5 years.
  • Champion a pedestrian friendly environment in support of residential, business and economic growth in the downtown area.
  • Foster a thriving – live, work, play – environment attractive to those seeking a vibrant urban community.

Other members of the DDC board of directors other than Glynn are Peoria City Council members Denise Moore and Ryan Spain; businessman Jake Hamann; Henry Vicary of Caterpillar Inc.; Roberta Parks of the UnityPoint Health – Methodist|Proctor Foundation, and Ron Jost. OSF HealthCare

 

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).