City leaders heard suggestions to improve and beautify one of Pekin’s oldest main streets Friday from a consulting team that spent the week collecting the ideas.

Putting them into a cohesive plan, with suggestions on how to pay for the work, will be the next stage in the city’s Derby Street Corridor Study.

“Plans are great, but we hope what you produce will be financially obtainable,” City Manager Tony Carson told the consultants at a City Hall meeting attended by several City Council members and city department directors.

The city is using a $25,000 grant from the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission and $2,500 of its own funds to finance the consulting work by Common Ground Design Studio of Nashville, Tenn., and Hanson Engineering of Springfield.

The consultants met Monday with about two dozen Derby Street residents, business owners and others who offered their thoughts on how to modernize the 1 1/2-mile corridor through the city’s south side. They spent the next several days reviewing ideas before presenting their summary at the Friday gathering.

“The (Derby Street) businesses were happy we’re not forgetting them,” said Councilman John Abel.

“We must keep the businesses’ needs in mind; any changes must focus on their needs,” Carson told the consultants.

Revealing those concerns, “Parking was paramount” among the subjects discussed at the Monday meeting at the Salvation Army headquarters on Derby, said City Planner Katie Shackelford.

The consultants said they also heard desires for a north-south corridor for bicycles that would connect Derby with the Pekin Park District’s Sports Complex along Koch Street.

Becca Wagner, an engineer with Hanson, told the group of five “big ideas” that emerged from the Monday information gathering session:

• Address on-street parking.
• Improve “curb appeal” with benches, landscaping and signage.
• Convert the two-block stretch of green space between Derby and Koch, bordered by Peoria and Morton streets, into a park.
• Improve sidewalk and pavement conditions.
• Install more and better street lighting.

Other suggestions, Wagner said, included preservation of the human services availabilities along Derby and creation of a building facade improvement program.

Carson and Mayor John McCabe asked the consultants to suggest a financial strategy with possible funding sources for the project in the formal report they expect to complete by March.

The group briefly discussed creation of a special services area along Derby, in which property or sales taxes are increased slightly to provide revenue for private property improvements, or a tax-increment finance district.

A loan through a bond issue “shouldn’t be written off either,” McCabe said after the meeting. “We have to look at all the possibilities.”

Follow Michael Smothers at Twitter.com/msmotherspekin