In May of 2014, after four years of regularly taking on projects, but being rather loosely organized, the Renaissance Park Community Association (RPCA) decided to incorporate as a not-for-profit and work towards becoming a 501c3. We brought in two mentors to help us navigate that process – Jennifer Brewer Zammuto, who works for the Caterpillar Foundation, and Jon C. Neidy who works with both the United Way and the Acorn Equality Fund. With their advice we were able to move forward in completing our goal. RPCA is now a fully insured, not-for-profit, 501c3. With this status, we now become eligible for grants and fundraising opportunities, which would be put right back into the West Main corridor.
Recently, The Renaissance Park Community Association began working with The Peoria Police Explorers, a group of young men and women ages 14 – 20, who hope to someday become police officers themselves. They’ve come out into our community on their own to conduct clean-ups, and also join us for our monthly clean-ups. We’re very excited to be working with them!
In recent months, in addition to our clean-ups, we’ve been working with local businesses to make minor facade improvements to their property – scraping windows, painting rusty posts, painting doors, etc. We’re also working with local property owners to take tours of their empty storefronts so that we can photograph them and help to promote them in an effort to get new tenants here.
In September or October of this year, we hope to have started and possibly finished a public art project on the white Muir building on West Main. This project will include one large, multi-artist mural on the side of the building, as well as interchangeable art panels on the front of the building. Jessica Ball is the owner of The Art Garage on West Main and is the leader of our public art committee. She’s been working with the city, Andrew Muir, UE Neighborhood Association resident Nick Viera and various local artists to make this happen.
On August 2, members of the Whiskey City Collaborative hosted an event called “Better Block” at the corner of Main and Sheridan. Members of the Renaissance Park Community Association, Start-Up Peoria and Bike Peoria volunteered to build outdoor furniture, place plants and barricades, put up temporary crosswalks, temporary outdoor seating and fill the empty storefronts with tenants for the day. The idea was to showcase what this corner could look like if our sidewalks were wider, if people were able to cross the street safely in multiple spots within a mile long stretch of road (instead of just one spot), if we had more greenery, if all of the businesses were full.
We also hosted live music and theater in the community garden all day. We were delighted to see the amount of families who came out to picnic in the garden and to just enjoy walking along West Main, taking in the shops and sights.
Every Wednesday at 5:45 p.m., members of the community association meet at a West Main business for dinner or dessert. Anyone is welcome to join us – we’ve found that these dinners not only help to support our local business community, but they’ve also strengthened the relationships we have with our neighbors, many of whom we did not know until we sat down to dinner with them. We put notifications out on both twitter and facebook each week regarding which restaurant we will be visiting that week.
We continue to meet at 4:00 p.m. on the first Sunday of every month, in the 600 block of West Main. We have the formal portion of our meeting from 4:00 to 4:30 p.m., and the community service portion from 4:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Anyone is invited to come to our meetings and take part in our activities – they’re actually a lot of fun!