Where Nostalgia Spurs Innovation

by Michael Freilinger
Downtown Development Corporation

An affection for the past can drive new ideas and transformation.

Sometimes old, worn-out, abandoned and discarded things become transformed into something totally new, shiny and innovative. That is what is happening in Peoria's Warehouse District.

Take Cooperage 214, for instance. What was once a cooperage that made barrels and casks for Hiram Walker during Peoria’s historic era of whiskey production has been transformed into upscale one- and two-bedroom lofts. Recognized in 2017 as the Preservation Award winner for adaptive use by Landmarks Illinois, historic cooperage elements are retained throughout the building. Original brick walls, wood floors and columns are highlighted with open-floor plans and sleek industrial finishes. 

The Winkler Lofts (formerly Roszell's Dairy building) consists of 28 residential units, two commercial units and artist studios. The luxury lofts are a combination of studios and one-bedroom apartments with huge windows, hickory floors, exposed brick walls and vaulted ceilings for that coveted industrial feel. The Winkler Lofts emanate the style of luxury lofts in Chicago’s Fulton River District or the Meatpacking District of New York. 

Many of you will remember back in the 1960s and ’70s shopping at Murray’s on SW Washington Street. Murray’s was a warehouse with old wooden floors featuring every kind of merchandise, from fine jewelry to trendy home furnishings to “innovative” gadgets (think lava lamp!). When the Murray’s catalog arrived in the mail, people would flock downtown to shop, especially during the holidays. It was the go-to merchandise mart. Until it wasn’t. 

One day, the “going out of business” sign went up, and the building became abandoned and lonely—if still iconic, with the “Murray” name staunchly etched on the side. For a time, it was a hub of creative activity, hosting a number of artists and their studios. Today, thanks to the vision and foresight of its owners, Murray Place is home to new, upscale apartments with innovative features and one of the most beautiful river views in all of Peoria. 

These are just a few examples of how old meets new and becomes transformed. Thanks to forward-thinking developers, the Warehouse District has become a vibrant destination. Many are taking a second look at derelict, abandoned buildings and envisioning newly repurposed spaces for living, working and playing in Peoria. Residential living options, retail spaces, businesses, and some of the area’s best casual and upscale dining options are popping up all over the iconic riverfront. We invite you to come explore the Warehouse District, where you will find it truly is an innovative place for everyone! iBi