Junction City polishing up look, adding new options

Posted Oct 9, 2015 at 4:18 PM

By Steve Tarter
Journal Star city of Peoria reporter
“PEORIA — If you’re looking for activity, the place to go might be Junction City.As workers put the finishing touches on an addition that includes two new restaurants for the north side shopping center, early morning exercise is taking place at Farrell’s Extreme Bodyshaping and Wade and Jennifer Siefert are getting their expansive Preckshot health center ready by month’s end.

Meanwhile, Rich Pestien, owner of the Bushwhacker, is preparing for the upcoming ski season at the same time his outdoor store is filled with bicycles.

The bridge that carries the Rock Island Trail past the Bushwhacker store carries activity of its own. “The impact of the trail can’t be minimized. It’s brought a tremendous amount of traffic to Junction City,” said Chuck Hollis, CEO of Junction Ventures, the management company that’s developed the center.

The installation of extra bike racks has been necessary, added Alexis Khazzam, who purchased Junction City with wife Beth in 2006.

There have been plenty of other additions — and subtractions — since the purchase of a shopping center that opened in 1959.

“We purchased the Grandview Hotel and demolished it that year, the same year we acquired the Town Hall section of Junction City. In 2008, we acquired the Illinois Department of Transportation’s sign shop that we relocated through a land swap,” said Khazzam.

When the financial downturn came in 2008, things slowed down, he recalled.

Even when the economy recovered, there were setbacks along the way, he said. “Sometimes things don’t work out,” he said of the 309 restaurant, the bistro that was supposed to make people forget about Vonachen’s Junction/Old Place, the train car landmark restaurant that used to bring diners to Junction City.

The 309 eatery closed after two years in 2012 at “a big financial loss,” said Khazzam.

Now the Preckshot development fills space once occupied by that restaurant with a 12,000-square-foot operation (up from the 2,000 square feet they had at Heritage Square). Along with a pharmacy and compounding lab, there’s a wellness wing and auditorium (dubbed an edutorium) that will offer seminars by health-and-wellness experts.

Not all of Junction City’s latest additions are as elaborate as the Preckshot project or as large as Bushwhacker. Thirty-thirty Coffee, fresh from its success Downtown (celebrating four years of service in November), opened a second store at Junction City in July.

“The word’s still getting out,” said co-owner Ty Paluska. “We opened in the summer, coffee’s slow season, but we look for it to pick up this fall,” he said of the Junction shop.

“Junction City does a great job with local businesses. That’s why we wanted to be here,” said Paluska.

Hollis and Khazzam talk of efforts to not only land attractive tenants but make the property more appealing. “When we developed the concept of the new retail building, it was with great awareness towards the history and look of the property,” said Khazzam.

“We decided to carbon copy our existing structure, with some minor changes — such as red brick boardwalk. We also re-shingled the Town Hall roof to match the rest of the center,” he said.

“Landscaping is always a big focus. We want the neighbors to view as much greenery as possible and give our customers the ability to relax in a healthy and colorful setting,” he said.

Telephone poles will soon disappear around the center with lines running underground, added Khazzam.

With all this growth, the Town Hall building, which Khazzam described as “a displaced and isolated property,” will be repurposed for retail use on the lower level this spring, he said.”

Steve Tarter is Journal Star business editor. Tarter’s phone number is 686-3260, and his email address is starter@pjstar.com. Follow his blog, Minding Business, on pjstar.com and follow him on Twitter @SteveTarter.