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Campus Engagement in Our Unit

{re}Imagine West Main Sets Stage for Progress

School of Architecture students worked with City of Peoria’s Innovation Team to begin small changes that will lead to big impacts in one Peoria neighborhood.

Improving the livability of our towns and cities commonly starts at the street, block, or building scale. While larger scale efforts do have their place, incremental, small-scale improvements are increasingly seen as a way to stage more substantial investments.

University of Illinois Extension and the U of I
College of Fine and Applied Arts, School of Architecture joined forces with the City of Peoria’s Innovation Team to pursue a “tactical urbanism” approach to planning along West Main in Peoria. Throughout the spring semester, 20 students researched, dreamed, created, and proposed a variety of small-scale interventions that could improve the vitality of the corridor.

Their work was showcased at an open house event and interactive installation along West Main. The collaboration helped community members and local business owners experience first hand how short-term, low-cost, and scalable interventions can catalyze long-term improvements.

During the summer, the City of Peoria implemented one of the design concepts created during this spring studio course, with the expectation that one small change will lead to more ideas that will take root in the community.

Architecture student Saloni Sheth (pictured above) took her experience from the spring “{re}Imagine West Main” project to the next level as she worked this summer at the Peoria PlayHouse Children’s Museum. Working with a team of museum and park district staff, Saloni developed a proposal for a temporary exhibit space. The effort considered the needs of the museum and its visitors, relocated existing exhibit components, and created a temporary exhibit space with storage. “Her design work transformed sections of the museum on three different floors, reinventing the use of existing spaces for programming possibilities,” described Extension educator Kathie Brown.



As a community and economic development educator, Kathie Brown worked with community leaders, government officials, volunteer groups, small business owners, and others to help communities become stronger and more economically viable. She focused on leadership and organizational development; local government education and relations; economic development strategies; participatory community planning/visioning processes; group process facilitation; collaboration and partnership building; public issue education; and understanding, using and developing data.

Prior to retirement in 2021, Brown worked with organizations and local governments to help them: (1) analyze and understand their needs, (2) identify alternative courses of action, (3) make informed decisions, (4) plan for the future and (5) evaluate their development efforts.

Kathie worked for Extension for almost 40 years, contributing to programs related to community health, digital literacy, STEAM education, and more.