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Innovation hub planned for downtown Peoria, aims to spark economic growth

UPDATE: The State of Illinois is betting big on innovation in 2019. $500 million in the new budget is devoted to funding innovation. A group of industry giants in Peoria has come up with a proposal to bring an ‘Innovation Hub’ to downtown.

John Vozelinek M.D. is one of the Chief Medical Officers of Innovation at OSF. He says there is “magic in the proposal.” He explained, “The main goal of the innovation hub is to provide quality service that results in economic development for our communities.” Vozelinek says OSF’s role is to work with business partners to push healthcare forward for the underserved. “Elderly populations, creating more for those with less, so our impoverished populations. And our populations that are separated by large distance,” are the groups they want to target.

Mike Hatfield, a local business owner with his wife Banu, thinks this hub could be huge for downtown Peoria. They own and operate Zion Coffee Bar just a couple blocks down from where the proposed Innovation Hub would be located. “Anything we can do to get more traffic downtown is a great thing,” explained Hatfield. “Anything we can do to get new businesses launched. Entrepeneurship, that’s something that’s important to us,” he added.

Drew Hillman owns and operates a men’s store next to Zion Coffee on SW Adams. He says anything to spark interest in the Warehouse District of the city is “exciting.” Mike Hatfield agrees, “I get excited about small business. I get excited about new tech types of business coming in here. We gotta really think about what we want Peoria known as, as we move forward.”

Partners on the proposal wouldn’t say exactly how much of the $500 million they will be asking for. They did say they would not be asking the City of Peoria to make a contribution initially.


A tool for economic development could open in Peoria by mid to late 2020. That’s according to a release from OSF Healthcare, announcing they’ll be one of many groups taking over an old building to bring new things to the River City.

OSF Healthcare, The University of Illinois System, Illinois Central College, and the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council are partnering to create what they’re calling a “Peoria Innovation Hub.”

The incubator will go in the Thomas Building at 201 SW Adams St., which is part of Peoria’s federally designated “Opportunity Zone.” This zone offers tax benefits to incentivize business startups to choose the hub for early stage development.

The hub will be part of a statewide initiative lead by the U of I System called the Illinois Innovation Network (IIN). The goal of the network is to facilitate research, job creation, and economic growth.

The groups put together a proposal asking the state for $500 million in funding to redevelop the facility. The Thomas Building has nearly 53,000 square feet of space for new companies to have a meeting place as well as other innovators in the community. Collaborators on the project hope people will use the space to come up with creative solutions to challenges facing healthcare, manufacturing, and agriculture.

In addition to conference spaces, a press release said the Thomas Building plans to provide equipment like 3D printers, lathes, drill presses, and laser cutters. They also plan to include big tech features like virtual reality software, cloud computing, server architecture, and artificial intelligence. Finally, they hope to have a rooftop greenhouse to experiment with urban farming and hydroponic techniques, plus a commercial kitchen to test restaurant concepts.


Molly Jirasek

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