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Peoria, Bloomington look to learn from Des Moines and invest at the neighborhood level

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PEORIA, Ill. (WEEK) -- -

Bloomington and Peoria want to bring a focus to CDC's.

No, not the Centers for Disease Control - Community Development Corporations.

"The leaders here in Peoria are wondering, is that a model that could be deployed here to help some of the challenges that Peoria has,' explained Matthew Anderson, Deputy City Manager of Des Moines, Iowa - the city that Peoria and Bloomington are trying to study.

The who's-who of city and economic development learned what Des Moines discovered on Thursday: that focusing on public health could be the key to a successful and flourishing city.

"We're looking at, how do we do things like, a small grocery store. How do we do things like, better affordable housing,"  said Ross Black, the City of Peoria's Community Development Director. "Street by street, block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood."

It started as a health push: how do you fight obesity, diabetes?  By exercising and eating well. But you can't do that if the neighborhood isn't safe at night, or if larger private grocers - like Kroger - are closing down.

And it's not just about the accessibility to healthy and affordable food. Heartland Health Services of Peoria says its about safety, and that all of these issues are connected together. Addressing them is how you make Peoria and Bloomington healthier and safer to live in.

"Especially when it comes to transportation, building a healthy community and providing those services. We believe in those partnerships with...pretty much everyone listed here today," added Michelle Sanders of Heartland Health Services.

As Anderson described, a CDC would be founded in that particular neighborhood, street or area, and run by people that live there. Funds for programs would be allotted to each CDC, who would spend them to invest back into the surrounding area, creating a cycle of growth that would eventually attract other, higher-buying investors and businesses.

It's not something that would be fixed overnight; focusing on the street-level is a slow process, but one that promotes more community involvement and answers to the problems our residents are facing.
 

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