Peoria schoolhouse may be transformed into restaurant. Residents want a chance to weigh in

Peoria may see a restaurant occupy the 116-year-old vacant schoolhouse in Old Town.

The Peoria City Council last month voted 6-1 on a deal with Arizona Partners in Real Estate to lease and sell parcels of land along 83rd Avenue and Jefferson Street to develop dining and retail venues, according to city documents.

The agreement came a year after the council requested proposals for the redevelopment of city-owned sites in the city's historic core. The recently approved development agreement includes the site of a shuttered Napa Auto Parts building and the historic Peoria Central School, which has been sitting vacant since 2018 after a local history museum shuttered.

Under the agreement, the developer would purchase some of the sites and lease the more historic ones. A purchase price of $11.90 per square foot was set in a July appraisal. The lease price would be $1 a year for the first three years. After that, the lease price would go up to the market rate.

Old Town Peoria's Central School Museum is among the area's city-owned properties.
Old Town Peoria's Central School Museum is among the area's city-owned properties.

The city would pay a maximum of $1.5 million for public infrastructure improvements, such as razing the old auto parts building and adding sidewalks and parking, according to city documents.

Councilmember Vicki Hunt, whose district includes Old Town, said the area's redevelopment is long overdue. On Nov. 15, Hunt conceded in a social media post to her election challenger Jennifer Crawford.

The development agreement was discussed in packed council chambers on Oct. 25, with many residents pushing back on the plan because there hadn't been prior public outreach.

"It doesn't make sense to me that a project agreement for $1.5 million is being voted on before specific information is developed and presented," Old Town resident Eva Osuna said.

Outgoing Mayor Cathy Carlat said that community outreach would come once Arizona Partners in Real Estate's initial plans were developed. The company has 120 days to draw up its ideas.

Katie Gregory, a deputy city manager in Peoria, told The Republic the developer will take residents' feedback into account.

"We have a really good understanding of what it is the community wants," Gregory said. "We feel really good that this developer has seen that, has heard that and is willing to move forward with us in a way that reflects that."

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: 116-year-old school in Peoria may be transformed into restaurant