R.A. Cullinan and Son

Like many cities, East Peoria, Ill. is in the midst of renewal. The city has grand plans for the redevelopment of its downtown area, and R.A. Cullinan and Son, a division of United Contractors Midwest (UCM) Inc. is one of the construction companies that is helping to make those plans into reality. As noted, R.A. Cullinan and Son is part of the UCM family. UCM is one of the Midwest region’s largest and most diverse heavy and highway contractors. R.A. Cullinan and Son’s experience with highway construction dates back to its founding in 1913.

The company has an extensive history in asphalt paving, aggregate production, concrete paving, subdivision construction and underground work. Over the years, the company grew with acquisitions in 1964, 1996 and 1999. 

New Life

The company’s current work in East Peoria is allowing it to have a major role in the redevelopment of the city’s downtown. The company is working on a $26 million project that is critical to an overall effort of $200 million in development. The West Washington Street and Edmund Street extension will open access to what was a Caterpillar Inc. industrial site in East Peoria’s metropolitan area. 

“The area is a brownfield that had manufacturing facilities on it that were vacated and ultimately demolished, and there was no infrastructure within the area,” says East Peoria City Attorney Dennis Triggs. “It wasn’t well serviced by any roads, and we couldn’t do any meaningful development without building the infrastructure.”

The West Washington Street and Edmund Street extension is a central piece of a redevelopment effort at the 65-acre brownfield site that will hopefully create 2,300 jobs and redefine the city for the future. It will forever alter what has been empty land, creating a new retail and commercial hub that should reinvigorate the downtown area by generating $130 million in new investment through the addition of shops, restaurants and offices.

“This will become a new downtown,” Triggs says. “This is a community of 23,000 people located across the Illinois River from downtown Peoria, and historically it hasn’t had an independent, autonomous downtown. The vision is to create a new downtown with mixed-use facilities.”

The project began in 2010 and is expected to wrap up by the fall of 2012. It requires relocating a portion of Washington Street, extending Edmund Street, the construction of a new street – Clocktower Drive – and completing a bridge to Camp Street. Work includes building new roads and a bridge at the Caterpillar Inc. property as well as 1.75 miles of new concrete pavement with new curbs and gutters, new storm sewers, water mains, sanitary sewers, intersections, traffic signals, landscaping and street lighting. 

Vision Becomes Reality

Today the project is about 75 to 80 percent complete. Most of the roadways on the former manufacturing site are done. What remains is wrapping up the tie-in points to the existing roadway surrounding the lot. Work will begin on that in the spring. In addition, work remains to be done on an arterial road connecting to the bridge.

Disruption to the daily lives of East Peoria’s residents and neighboring businesses has been lessened by the fact that most of the work has been taking place on the vacated lot. The challenges have been related to the seven tie-ins created and hooked in to existing roads.  

Several things stand out about the project. It includes the first roundabout to be constructed in this district of the Illinois Department of Transportation. The project also had to take into account the needs of the primary commercial developer and potential tenants, which meant changes had to be made along the way to suit the development needs of the overall $200 million project.

Still, the project maintained its budget and schedule constraints through an integrated team approach and open lines of communication. Weekly progress meetings helped the project stick to demanding timetables that kept it on schedule and on budget.

From the city’s perspective, it is confident that the entire redevelopment project will ultimately pay for itself. It is also excited about the unique aspects of the project that include open and green space that is pedestrian-friendly. Without the infrastructure work to open up the brownfield site for development, East Peoria’s attempt at redevelopment and rebirth could not go forward. As the infrastructure project nears its completion, the city can move forward in ways that would otherwise not have been possible. 

“These aren’t just dreams and hopes,” says Ron Rowell, vice president with R.A. Cullinan. “The city is a long way down the road toward making all this actually happen. East Peoria has a grand vision for rebirth that is a good part of the way into completion.”

“Thinking about the project as a whole, we think of all the little nuts and bolts that have gone into this, things like the sanitary sewers and the water mains and all the other things that are underground in addition to the road network,” adds Steve Ferguson, East Peoria director of public works. “It has taken a great deal of cooperation and coordination that has made this project possible.”

East Peoria has put its economic future into the hands of companies such as R.A. Cullinan and Son. As everything continues to come together in the months ahead, the stage is set to put the finishing touches on a project that will stimulate the local economy and provide jobs for many years to come. 

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