On my first trip to Peoria, a taxi driver took me from my hotel in East Peoria to the airport, taking me through South Peoria.
It was a rough-looking part of the city. But I didn't think much of it. Every city has some rough patches.
During my first year at the Journal Star, South Peoria has come up a lot more, often in unflattering and frustrating ways. Seemingly, a lot more than other parts of the city.
With that in mind and with so many people in different settings discussing South Peoria, we decided talk to the people living in that community and ask questions of city government about the concerning issues.
This series dives into the root causes of South Peoria's problems and the history of the decline over time. We also identify bright spots and potential solutions.
The Journal Star published a series on South Peoria five years ago. We hope the extra attention once again compels city and state leaders and private entities to invest in South Peoria, because it's an investment in the entire city.
Housing, education and food accessibility are all topics at the heart of this series. We enlisted the expertise of reporters, editors and visual journalists.
You'll see familiar names in the series: Phil Luciano, Andy Kravetz, Matt Dayhoff and Chris Kaergard — veteran journalists who spent months researching, writing, interviewing and taking photos to make it happen.
This is the kind of community journalism we want to do consistently. It takes time, energy and resources. Long days and nights to pull it all together while also tackling news on a daily basis. If so inclined, please support our work with a digital subscription.
The issues of South Peoria are the problems of the entire city and region. But first and foremost, city leaders must put an emphasis on South Peoria and leverage their connections at the state and federal level to generate investment.
We all know money is tight right now for the city for multiple reasons. Maybe that's our next series. But for now, we think this topic deserves attention. And I'll end with my favorite quote from the series, regarding if it's even possible to fix these issues that have persisted for decades.
"But it will take people with incredible vision," Marvin Hightower, president of the Peoria branch of the NAACP, says. "And, of course, money.
MORE IN THIS SERIES
This article originally appeared on Journal Star: Why we decided to do a series on the issues of South Peoria