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Staying home: Cat will transform downtown Peoria with new HQ

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Main entrance
Aerial view from the east of the Headquarters Campus
Aerial view from the west of the Headquarters Campus
Community space along Water Street
Aerial view of the Headquarters Campus



Caterpillar Inc. is staying home and plans to build a new headquarters that will take it several decades into the future, the company announced on Friday.

More than 250 people on hand for the announcement gave Caterpillar Chairman and CEO Doug Oberhelman a standing ovation when he said the words they were waiting to hear, “Caterpillar will stay in Peoria.”

That part of the announcement wasn’t that much of a surprise as the company had intimated on more than one occasion that it planned to stay in the only city it has truly ever called home. But until Friday there was no public knowledge as to what the company’s multi-year study of its global headquarters would lead. That answer was met with as much enthusiasm as the announcement itself.

In a news conference at the Caterpillar Visitors Center that was broadcast live and attended by Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, federal, state and local politicians and a host of other dignitaries, the company revealed a design for a new campus that:

  • Will span 31 acres and six square blocks on the city’s riverfront;
  • Focus on a building that will have three towers rising from a horizontal office building, each with eight occupied floors and sustainable design features to house up to 3,200 employees;
  • An energy center using Caterpillar products and solutions to support the electrical, heating and cooling needs of the campus;
  • Green space, walking and biking paths, food and retail options and employee amenities that will include fitness and childcare centers;
  • An historical equipment display across Washington Street from the Visitors Center.

Most important, the company said, the new headquarters will have innovative work spaces and amenities “designed to retain and attract the finest talent in the world.”

Further, it said, Friday’s announcement represents “A commitment to invest and act as a catalyst in Peoria, helping revitalize the downtown and the region as a vibrant destination. While Caterpillar is truly a worldwide company with facilities that span the globe, Peoria remains its headquarters.”

While making the announcement, Oberhelman said the company’s long-term future is in Peoria, but that the company will manage the costs carefully and that it will likely take the better part of a decade before it is completed. Because of design work yet to be done and the need for a redevelopment agreement with the City of Peoria, he said construction will not begin in 2015. No price tag for the project was offered.

“Caterpillar’s roots in the Peoria area run deep, and this year we celebrate 90 years as a company – a perfect time to share our plans of where we plan to be anchored as we continue to build, develop and power the world,” Oberhelman said. “This campus represents an investment in both our people and community, with such features as collaborative work areas, improved technology, a more energy-efficient design, green space and an expanded showcase of our historical equipment, along with food and retail shops – an inviting destination not only for employees, but also for customers, dealers and suppliers from around the world.”

He said the new headquarters is a long-term, strategic investment aimed at improving our competitiveness. This new campus will position us for decades to come, serve as an engaging, more productive environment for our current workforce and improve our ability to recruit the best and brightest employees, who are hands down our most valuable asset. We also shouldn’t underestimate the potential of this project to serve as a springboard for regional economic development and look forward to continuing our strong partnerships with our key area stakeholders.”

Gov. Rauner, whose election in November was seen by Caterpillar as a positive step toward curing the state’s fiscal problems, was effusive in his praise of the company’s responsibility to the state. He noted that Illinois remains Caterpillar’s largest concentration of employees and facilities anywhere in the world, with about 22,600 employees and two dozen facilities throughout the state.

“This is a great day in Peoria, a great day in Illinois,” Rauner said. “We’ve been blessed. In Caterpillar, we have one of the best managed, most successful and most respected companies in the world. They could have gone anywhere in the world, to any other state, and they said no, we’re staying here. We thank you for that commitment to Peoria.”

Rauner said that even though Caterpillar was courted with promises of all types by other states and countries to relocate its headquarters, the company never came to him or his predecessor to ask for any special considerations to stay in Illinois. “They are doing this without any special deals and I will do everything I can as governor to work for this company,” he said.

Rauner said this kind of commitment will go a long way in attracting other business to Illinois. “We as a state government need to renew our commitment to job creators in Illinois. As Caterpillar and other companies prepare themselves to compete and grow in the 21st century, Illinois needs to make sure it is a help and not a hindrance to their efforts,” he said,

Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis said Caterpillar has long been and will continue to be the most important part of the local economy. The announcement, he said, “is very reassuring for our future, but I urge our business community not to be complacent. Central Illinois is ripe for growth.”

A model of the new headquarters, including the parking garage with offices and retail that will connect with the main building via skywalk, is on display at the Visitors Center. That model, like the renderings, show Caterpillar’s intent to raze its current headquarters at Main and Adams streets once the new one is completed. That space will become green space leading to the grand main entrance of the new building.

Further, Caterpillar will raze the office building it owns at Hamilton and Adams to create additional parking.

The block now bounded by Main, Washington, Fulton and Adams streets, where Chase Bank and other offices are located, will be cleared to allow for the parking and retail structure.

The new headquarters will total nearly 2 million square feet and the towers will rise approximately 200 feet above Washington Street. The current headquarters, which opened in 1967, is approximately 500,000 square feet and with nine floors rises about 150 feet above Washington Street.

When Caterpillar opened that building, about 1,500 employees worked there. There are now about 2,200 in the building and another 1,000 or so scattered in other offices downtown. All those will be consolidated into the new headquarters.

The company said the project leader is Turner Corp., a construction management firm with a regional office in Chicago. Other partners so far include Farnsworth Group, an engineering and architectural firm, and Gensler Architecture, Design & Planning, P.C., a design and architecture firm.


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).