InterPlay Park is an intergenerational park for the people of Peoria that reconnects communities divided by the construction of the I-74 Interstate corridor in 1958.
Interstate-74 brought Peoria into America’s interstate highway system and was expected to facilitate progress and prosperity, but its construction created unforeseen consequences and ultimately damaged the city fabric. In Peoria, as with many other US cities, the interstate encouraged urban sprawl and suburbanization, hollowing out downtown. Viable residential neighborhoods were altered and abandoned. Downtown retailers and restaurateurs eventually left with their shoppers and diners in tow.
By creating a park over I-74 that connects North Valley and the Downtown District it allows the divided neighborhoods to once again be whole. A walkable district will encourage downtown foot traffic and spur new development and investment in the adjacent neighborhoods. Surrounded by multiple existing community organizations, non-profits, and healthcare businesses, the park can extend the mission of community-oriented development to public spaces in Peoria.
InterPlay Park consists of programmatic “molecules” or gathering spaces of varying sizes that intermix opportunities to play for all age groups. The play molecules are strategically disbursed across a flexible lawn space, where users can lounge, walk, or play catch. The lawn could also host interactive sculptures and events. Two iconic landmarks anchor each end of the park, aiding in pedestrian wayfinding. Drivers on the I-74 below will see these landmarks as they drive to and from Downtown Peoria. On the eastern side of the park, The Window opens to the highway below, creating an oculus that stimulates curiosity and beckons users to peer down onto the interstate. On the western side of the park, The Tree Cathedral frames the sky above, naturally raising the gaze of visitors and sparking imagination.
InterPlay Park has the potential to become a destination that spurs development and investment in Downtown Peoria and connects the growing hospital district with both the downtown core and the residential North Valley neighborhood. With InterPlay Park, the I-74 corridor becomes a walkable destination in the city, rather than an area to avoid. Parks and open space are vital for the cultivation of physical and mental health while equitable access to local green space is critical for community health and social cohesion. InterPlay Park aims to revive the spirit of Downtown Peoria by highlighting the vibrant possibilities when people of all ages and backgrounds can gather together and play.