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Word on the Street: New Schnucks puts spotlight back on Peoria's grocery needs

July 11,2016 04:10

It appears we'll find out soon, at least in one part of town. Maybe two. The planned opening this autumn of a Schnucks supermarket along Knoxville Avenue, north of Illinois Route 6, affirms what seems to be Peoria's inexorable march north. If the ...and more »


Does Peoria need another grocery?It appears we'll find out soon, at least in one part of town. Maybe two.The planned opening this autumn of a Schnucks supermarket along Knoxville Avenue, north of Illinois Route 6, affirms what seems to be Peoria's inexorable march north. If the growth of population matched that of the city's physical footprint, Peoria probably should have almost 150,000 people by now (rather than flat-lining at about 115,000).A Schnucks representative said the relatively affluent area of Far North Peoria is underserved from a grocery standpoint. If so, that section has something in common with a more-publicized, lower-income "food desert" on the opposite end of town.Last month, to much fanfare, a Save-A-Lot grocery opened along Western Avenue in South Peoria. It was the culmination of substantial city and community efforts to attract a supermarket to replace Aldi, which closed in late 2014 and occupied the building Save-A-Lot does today.No disparagement intended all the way around, but the difference between Save-A-Lot and Schnucks might be the same as a Ford Focus and a Lexus. They're both automobiles, but one has more bells and whistles than the other.Save-A-Lot tends to run a lean operation, with an emphasis on the basics. Among other things, the under-construction Schnucks is to offer in-store dining. Beer and wine by the glass are to complement it.Still, both grocers can get you where you want to go. And having even a rudimentary source of fresh food is better than none.But how bereft of options was/is either area?Technically, it's true South Peoria didn't have a substantial supermarket during the Aldi-to-Save-A-Lot transition. But that analysis might not include the Kroger store located in the Madison Park shopping center along Harmon Highway, just outside Peoria's southwestern boundary. Nor the Walmart Supercenter in East Peoria, just across the Illinois River.The area where the new Schnucks is sprouting isn't all that far from the Kroger in the Northpoint Shopping Plaza, located along Knoxville south of Route 6. The recently opened Hy-Vee store near The Shoppes at Grand Prairie isn't too distant, either.And we haven't even mentioned the proposed Kroger superstore, intended to replace the company's existing grocery at Evergreen Square in Central Peoria.Granted, some South Peoria residents might not have adequate transportation to Madison Park or Tazewell County. Albeit in smaller numbers, so might not some elderly or homebound Far North Peoria residents to points south.The question of how many grocers Peoria needs is still open. Yet the answer is simple, and, in this month of independence, quite American.Peoria "needs" as many grocery stores as the market will bear. We hope the market will bear an abundance, even with the uncertainty surrounding job cuts by this area's major employer, Caterpillar Inc.But sometimes, the vastness and barrenness of a food desert might be a matter of opinion. Or perhaps even a bit of a mirage. (N.V.)Untangling the wiresCall it a good first step in resolving a problem some city of Peoria leaders identified after the post-Christmas ice-and-wind storm last year.At the last Peoria City Council meeting, members heard about a plan to begin work to underground some utilities along part of University Street during construction there between Forrest Hill Avenue and War Memorial Drive.It had been a point of discussion among some councilors after the outage, amid a general feeling that Ameren Illinois officials weren't working as well as possible with the city to try to reduce the unsightly tangle of wires and old utility poles, both of which can be prone to problems in storms.What we heard most at the time was a wish that Ameren would, like Illinois American Water, work with the city to do modernization work like this in conjunction with major road projects.As always, this means a cost to the city in doing so. But it's more efficient than doing that work at a time when the infrastructure isn't already being torn up for other road work.Council members had already identified working "to reduce the overhead clutter and enhance safety and reliability" as a goal. A recent outage in the area, which also affected the city's Public Works facility on Dries Lane, shows the value in improving reliability nearby.More importantly, this sets the stage for future cooperation during repairs on Glen and Western avenues. Seeing similar efforts there go smoothly will make plenty of citizens feel better. (C.K.)The final whistleThis column usually doesn't dabble in sports. But this week, we're making an exception because of an exceptional man from the northern edge of our circulation area.Larry Wilcoxen died July 2, a few days short of his 80th birthday. The graduate of Farmington High School resided in the Bureau County village of Walnut.Wilcoxen was a teacher, coach and school administrator in a number of places, including Bradford, Neponset and Tiskilwa. But he was best known for wearing a striped shirt in public — almost 7,000 times.For 55 years, Wilcoxen was an Illinois High School Association floor official. By his count, he helped preside over 6,743 events. Among them were state finals in baseball, boys and girls basketball, softball and football. According to the Bureau County Republican newspaper, Wilcoxen was the only official in the state to accomplish that feat.Considering the lousy hours, low pay and the abuse officials often take from over-the-top fans, that's quite an accomplishment. Particularly for an avocation.Wilcoxen's family has our condolences. Given the pace and priorities of modern society, and the corresponding burnout level among high school coaches and officials, Wilcoxen's extracurricular feats might be worth a moment of silence, too. (N.V.)The Ballot BoxHere is where candidates for offices at stake in the Nov. 8 general election are appearing this week:PEORIA COUNTY CORONERA fish fry fundraiser for Jamie Harwood, Democratic candidate for Peoria County coroner, will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday at Burnzee's Bar and Grill in Brimfield. The cost of the all-you-can-eat meal is $20. Children eat for free. The Ballot Box is a weekly listing of election-related events. Deadline to submit information for Monday publication is by 2 p.m. Thursday. Notices should include candidates attending and political offices sought, or referendums proposed, as well as time and place of the event.Email notices to news@pjstar.com or send faxes to 686-3296. To confirm arrivals, call 686-3118.    

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