Peoria commission OKs senior housing development at Junction City

An article by Nick Vlahos of the Journal Star on the new senior housing project that is coming soon to Junction

“PEORIA — Bye-bye, American Pi.

The former nightclub at 5720 N. Knoxville Ave., which has been closed about a decade, is likely to be razed soon. In its place is planned a four-story, 90-unit residence for the elderly.

During its meeting Thursday, the Peoria Planning and Zoning Commission approved land-use changes that allow the owners of the adjacent Junction City Shopping Center to develop the senior housing.

“I think this is a property that has been vacant and under-utilized for a lot of years and is an eyesore,” commissioner Mark Misselhorn said.

The commission also approved a Junction City request to construct a retail addition at the east end of the shopping center. The rear of the proposed 12,000-square-foot building would be parallel to Humboldt Avenue.

On March 24, the City Council is to have final say regarding the retail addition. On a date to be determined, the council is to consider the elderly housing plan.

The requests are in conjunction with plans for a new entrance on Knoxville Avenue that also would serve the proposed housing. The signaled intersection is to be located at the driveway of the former Donovan Golf Course.

“There have been a number of proposals that were advanced, and I think we got the right formula,” Junction City CEO Chuck Hollis said.

The American Pi proposal came forth after Junction City acquired the land upon which the abandoned bar sits. Topography and parcel size limit options, Hollis suggested. But proximity to shopping, Donovan and UnityPoint Health-Proctor made senior housing a possibility.

“It was sort of an ‘aha’ moment for us,” Hollis said.

Junction City doesn’t plan to operate the proposed private-pay facility. An agreement has been reached with an operator, Hollis said. He wouldn’t reveal anything more but said an announcement is forthcoming.

At its peak, the proposed building is to be 73 feet high. It’s also to be about 66,000 square feet.

The new retail space is to be a copy of existing Junction City buildings, Hollis said. The 59-year-old shopping center is leased almost to capacity.

“From a design perspective, the way we intend it is that if you weren’t from Peoria and you came to our shopping center, you wouldn’t be able to tell if it was built in 2015 vs. 1956,” Hollis said.

Construction might begin this spring, according to Hollis.In 2012, by a 6-4 vote, the City Council approved construction of a three-story apartment building on the site of the proposed retail structure. Nearby residents fought the approval.

Eventually, the project was shelved.

“It was very controversial, and that’s not what we’re looking to be in terms of developers,” Hollis said. “We want to be in concert with the neighborhood, friendly with the neighborhood and develop projects that, ultimately, they frequent.”

The North Prospect Area Neighborhood Association, which opposed the apartments, appears to support the new building. But there are stipulations. Delivery restrictions and landscaping requirements are part of the plan.

“This particular project is much more appropriate in its scale, its location, its appearance,” said Misselhorn, who didn’t favor the apartments. “It’s a real gem for the north side.””

Nick Vlahos can be reached at 686-3285 and nvlahos@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @VlahosNick.