A successful Peoria business is breathing new life into a riverfront building

The remodeling of Peoria’s Gateway Building completely transformed the interior of one of the city’s most unique structures.

Childers, who owns and operates restaurants in the Peoria area, spent about $300,000 to transform the interior of the 31-year-old building into an event space that stakeholders hope can help transform Peoria’s riverfront and downtown.

Childers contracted with Baldovin Construction to paint the walls, whitewash the ceiling and install new floors, furniture, curtains and chandeliers.

“Everything we’ve done to this room, I can’t even begin to tell you how excited we are to make this work,” said James Hubbart, operating partner for Childers. “Anyone who’s seen this room before knows it’s a beautiful room, it just needs updating.”

Casey Baldovin of Baldovin Construction says he’s blown away by the Gateway Building’s new look, which he considers an invaluable asset downtown.

“From a construction and developer standpoint, the fact that it’s on the riverfront … the outside of the building is beautiful, it’s all masonry, brick, a beautiful building,” Baldowin said. “For you to be able to have the height of the building, the second floor with the balcony that you can walk out on, the great pictures and the views, it seems to me that it hasn’t been used for so long.”

Before the renovation, Childers found a shabby room with inadequate lighting and dusty and crumbling forest green curtains. Baldovin said Childers provided a “great” design for the project.

“I went to my first event there when I was 17 or 18 in high school … I was blown away to see the finished product because I remember what it looked like when it was new,” Baldowin said. “When you see this transformation and how new it can look, how modernized it can look, it looks brand new.”

Before Childers took over the space, it was operated by the Peoria Park District. The city of Peoria still owns the building.

The city put forward a request for interest on the property in the fall of 2021, and Childers jumped at the chance.

Under the five-year agreement between Childers and the city, the business will pay Peoria 8% of gross sales from the space, or a minimum of $2,500 per month.

“It was one of those things where it was like, ‘Oh my God, the Gateway Building,'” Hubbart said. “It was a hit, we were willing to breathe life into it, put money into it to do what it needed to do.”

Peoria City Manager Patrick Urich said the city is “very excited” that the Chyders are looking to take on the Gateway Building.

“I think it’s a great example of a good partnership between the city and the private sector to reinvent space,” Urich said.

Gateway Building an important part of Peoria’s riverfront

In July, Peoria announced a $26 million plan to improve the city’s riverfront.

City Council members said the plans brought “hope and optimism” to the area. Childers, Baldovin and city officials believe the renovated Gateway Building is a key part of that plan.

“Everybody talks about revitalizing life in Peoria, and I think that’s a great foundation for that, and the cornerstone of that is bringing people downtown,” Baldowin said. “To see Childers take this initiative to partner with the city, bring this event center there and bring a few hundred people there every weekend is exactly what we need.”

More: Peoria has unveiled a multi-million dollar plan to overhaul its riverfront. Here are the details

Hubbart said Chaiders was looking for a riverfront location to compete with other event venues, and it was an “easy decision” to move to the Gateway Building when the opportunity arose.

“I think it brings more attention to this place, which is already beautiful. I think it’s nice to see the city put some effort into making it the way Peoria wants it to be,” Hubbart said. “Ultimately, I think it adds more value to the weddings and events that come here.”

Owner Ed Childers said views of the Illinois River set the Gateway Building apart from other event spaces. Childers also has a special agreement with the city where, upon request, the colors of the Murray Baker Bridge can be changed for the event. Peoria also gave the event space access to the CEFCU stage on the riverfront and the archway under the Gateway Building.

“Seeing this arch with a building on it really shows the whole character of this place,” Hubbart said. “Under the brick and married with the river behind are not normal sights. But just the general appearance of the building from the outside is very recognizable.”

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