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Matthews sells majority share of GEM Terrace to Cullinan Properties

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GEM Terrace, the East Peoria office building that sits atop a bluff off Main Street, has gone from one of that city’s top developers to another in a transaction that closed Tuesday night.

Cullinan Properties, lead developer of the Levee District that has transformed downtown East Peoria, has acquired 80 percent of GEM Terrace from EM Properties and its owner, Gary Matthews, who has developed many retail areas of East Peoria, including where WalMart and Embassy Suites now stand along the riverfront. He also is the owner of the Marriott Pere Marquette in downtown Peoria, which he gutted and renovated.

The purchase price of GEM Terrace was not disclosed. Cullinan Properties expects to relocate its corporate offices from Peoria to the second and fifth floors of GEM Terrace around the end of the first quarter of 2015, the company said. It is likely the name of the building will change.

All told Cullinan will own 18,320 square feet of the 26,000 square foot building. Heritage Bank owns the first floor. Other tenants, Validus Technologies, Legacy Investment Services and Consociate Dansig Group, lease space in the building Matthews built in 2007 that has a steel frame with glass curtain exterior walls.  

“We look forward to moving our corporate headquarters to such an upscale building with spectacular views of the Illinois River, downtown Peoria and East Peoria. With the economic growth that continues East and West of the river, this move puts our headquarters in the middle of the ongoing development that has already happened and what’s to come in the region,” said Diane Cullinan Oberhelman, chairman and founding partner of Cullinan Properties. 

As part of a 2010 redevelopment agreement between the City of East Peoria and Cullinan Properties, the company was required to locate its corporate offices within or near the Levee District. The company had planned to build a new structure within the Levee District, but things had to change because of how quickly that area developed, Oberhelman said.

“This came up as a possibility and with Gary semi-retiring and reducing the size of his company, we worked out a deal that moved quickly the last few days. We’re excited. It keeps us solidly in the area and really, there is so little separation between the two cities any more this will be a good place for us to locate our offices,” she said.

Oberhelman said she doubts her office will need more than two floors, noting she also has offices in Chicago and St. Louis. Her company has developed and owns mixed-use projects across the country but the majority of its holdings are in the Peoria area and include many retail, office and medical projects it also developed. Cullinan Properties also developed the Shoppes at Grand Prairie and One Technology Plaza in downtown Peoria.

Matthews announced earlier his plans to become semi-retired. “This purchase will permit me to reduce my office space needs consistent with my desire to spend more time with my wife and family,” said Matthws, 73.

EM Properties has relocated to office space at the Pere Marquette, he said.

Matthews said he has sold many of his holdings, mostly his retail properties, in the past several months and still plans to sell vacant properties he owns in East Peoria and the area. He said he plans to keep the hotels he owns in the area.

“I’m not retiring completely, but I am ready to spend more time with my family and less time hassling over projects,” he said.  


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).