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U of I students share ideas to improve Peoria’s southside neighborhood

University of Illinois Students present design ideas for Peoria

PEORIA, Ill. – Every minute of every day, our health is affected by the physical design of our homes, schools, workplaces, and indoor/outdoor community spaces. During the spring semester, University of Illinois Extension facilitated a sustained engagement between residents and community leaders of Peoria’s Southside Neighborhood and students in the U of I School of Architecture, examining the relationship between health, design, and the built environment.

Students presented design ideas for a safer, more connected, more vibrant Southside Neighborhood in Peoria. Their planning and design work was aided by multiple visits to the community in which students spoke to key leaders, walked the neighborhood, and engaged community residents to identify community design issues and solutions.

Community engagement is a reciprocal learning experience, where both students and community members learn and grow from shared experiences. Students reported that one of the most valuable aspects of the course was “working on a real problem.” They also stressed the value of community feedback, which helped refine solutions that were realistic and scalable. By engaging with students, community members and leaders discovered new strategies for community improvement by creatively targeting critical elements of health and well-being.

Community leaders and faculty are seeking funding to extend this project, which began in 2015. Student projects have found their way into city planning documents and grant proposals. Faculty and students have a deeper understanding of the complex issues that contribute to urban decay and the challenges for communities seeking policies and programs that can spur change.

This collaboration between U of I Extension and the U of I College of Fine and Applied Arts is part of the Designing Healthy Communities Initiative, funded through the University of Illinois Extension and Outreach Initiative, with support from the Office of the Provost and the College of ACES.

Photo caption: Peoria Councilwoman Denise Moore, City of Peoria Innovation Team, and Peoria Southside community residents discuss ideas presented by UIUC School of Architecture Studio Workshop students. The Studio class focused on addressing real problems the City of Peoria is currently facing. Kathie Brown, Extension educator, has been working with community organizations and UIUC College of Fine and Applied Arts through the cross-campus initiative known as Extension and Outreach Initiative.

About Extension

Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities.