Campus Engagement in Our Unit SERVICE and LEARNING provides the greatest potential to influence student development academically and socially Sun, 15 May 2005 13:02:08 -0500 Hanna City and Dunlap Host University of Illinois Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism Planning Studio Fri, 11 May 2018 06:53:00 +0000 (Peoria, IL) On Monday, April 30 Hanna City and Dunlap hosted University of Illinois Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism community recreation planning class. The exhibition was part of Rural Peoria Coalition of Municipalities and Township (RPCCMT), a public engagement effort to improve the vitality of smaller towns through community-driven projects. RPCCMT has recently obtained its nonprofit status and has identified recreational planning as its first project. This recreation planning project illustrates some of the ways RPCCMT plans to support mutually beneficial community development initiatives for rural communities.

U of I students from Professor Lara Browning's recreation planning studio, along with University of Illinois Extension have been working alongside community leaders from Dunlap and Hanna City to develop an outdoor recreation plan for each of the communities. The plans will assist in creating a strategic vision for recreational services.

Just as water, sewer, and public safety are considered essential public services, parks are vitally important to establishing and maintaining the quality of life in a community. Studies show that well-planned parks and recreation systems can serve as a catalyst for economic development. Access to parks and recreation facilities and active transportation infrastructure can increase property values, foster job creation, and provide a foundation for place-based economic development.

The connection between the city and the university, facilitated by University of Illinois Extension, Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Unit, demonstrates the benefits for both students and community members when they engage in complex issues together. "The students gain so much from these interactions. They talk to people from all walks of life – neighborhood residents, local engineers and architects – people they don't usually hear from as a part of their classwork," says Extension Educator Kathie Brown. "I think that's the piece where Extension can enrich the campus experience in so many ways, because of this collaborative engagement with the community."



Healthy Neighborhood Revitalization in Peoria, Illinois Tue, 15 Aug 2017 17:21:00 +0000
  • This report contextualizes socioeconomic conditions within Census Tract 24 (which encompasses most of the research area) and compares these with the overall socioeconomic conditions in the city of Peoria.
  • Provides an overview of interview responses from residents and business owners in the neighborhood. This section details major themes including Positive Aspects of the Neighborhood, Opportunities for Improvement, Opinions about the city of Peoria, and Interviewee Visions for the Future.
  • Highlights responses from three separate surveys given to residents, middle-school aged youths, and local business owners or managers of public institutions. This section also shows major themes that emerge in surveys and interviews including the following:• Good Neighbors• Inexpensive cost of home ownership• Close to amenities/friends• Absentee Landlords/Need for Better Property Upkeep• Need for Community Cohesion/Spaces to Build Social Capital• Need for Increased Neighborhood Safety.
  • Provides recommendations based on themes that emerged in the research. These recommendations include the following:• Address Blight and Absentee Landlords• Increase Community Safety, and• Increase Opportunities for Community-Building• Explore possibilities for partnerships with local nonprofit hospitals. The recommendations present a vision for a neighborhood that promotes mental and physical health through community togetherness and support, safety, and upkeep of housing stock.
  • Discusses final report presentation provided to Von Steuben Middle School PTO.

Each opportunity for engagement with the neighborhood provided a rich learning exchange for both neighborhood residents and Rachel Wilson, UIUC Graduate student. This reciprocal learning exchange is our primary purpose for conducting campus engagement activities.  Neighborhood Association, School Administration, Students, Churches, East Bluff Neighborhood Center and Community Development/Planning Staff City of Peoria were active partners promoting learning and discovery.

The plan provides recommendations that can be implemented using a phased in approach, each step seeking to strengthen community leadership and strengthen opportunities for improved health in the built environment.

Healthy Neighborhood Revitalization in Peoria, Illinois.

Kathleen Brown Extension Educator Community & Economic Development -

Design Proposal Peoria Food Hub Mon, 17 Jul 2017 16:23:00 +0000 UIUC School of Architecture planning study, during Spring 2017 was designed to comprehend, summarize, and catalyze the region's growing interest in improving their local food system, specifically within the Peoria's South Side neighborhood, through economic strategies targeted at supporting a healthy community.

University of Illinois Extension worked to facilitate, UIUC School of Architecture's engagement with City of Peoria and community leaders. Graduate students Michael Osterloo and Drew Nuding, completed this research study overseen by Professor Lynne Dearborn, this project builds on work completed in the Spring 2016 graduate design studio: Realizing a Healthy "Heart of Peoria," ARCH572. This work identified the importance to public health of enhancing the built environment's relationship with South Side Neighborhood residents through the growth of an urban farming community.

A system of supports across the stages of urban farming production will enable vibrant agricultural economic development through education, training, and marketing assistance while simultaneously building on three of the South Side Neighborhood's greatest assets: vacant land, under-utilized property, and human resources.

The final report consists of case study analyses of multiple facilities in the Midwest region to investigate the variety of business models and programming requirements seen in the industries of small-scale urban farming, commissary kitchens, and agricultural incubators. The second phase of this study explores renovation opportunities of existing structures in Peoria and proposes a phased conceptual design solution that accommodates the programmatic goals of a facility for agricultural business incubation.

This agricultural incubation service primarily aims to enhance social interaction within the local community and to help build social capital that will contribute to successful small business development—this work aligns with current work efforts by City of Peoria Innovation Team, Invest Health, Regional Food Policy Council, and Gifts in the Moment. Key goals for development include:

  • Expand markets (Community Supported Agriculture, farmer's markets, and wholesale) for beginning urban growers
  • Increase financial viability through value added product line development for small family and urban growers with availability of a licensed commissary kitchen
  • Improve the livability of the community through green infrastructure and through reduced crime in areas adjacent to agricultural centers.
  • Create a teaching kitchen that could provide hands-on training for culinary medicine classes for students and neighborhood residents.

The report and conceptual design serves as a catalyst for an urban food hub in the Peoria Region.


Kathleen Brown, Community & Economic Development Educator, at

Assessing Downtown Canton Mon, 28 Nov 2016 08:34:00 +0000 Assessing Downtown Canton report represents a collaborative effort between Canton Main Street, Uni­versity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and University of Illinois Extension. The assessment was conducted in the sum­mer of 2014 to provide technical assis­tance for revitalization efforts in Canton, Illinois. The analysis was utilized to guide downtown economic development initiatives.

The assessment has three parts. The first part analyses the issues and challenges Canton faces by looking into some key demographics. The sec­ond part conducts a downtown market analysis to gauge the possibilities of revitalization based on a retail focus.The market analysis uses a retail assessment framework developed by University of Minnesota Extension, Ohio State University Extension, and University of Wiscon­sin-Extension. The market analysis draws upon quantitative and qualitative approaches to identi­fy retail expansion and recruitment opportunities for Downtown Canton.

The third part of this study explores the possibil­ities of revitalizing Downtown Canton by look­ing at factors that influence the retail market. This part was the focus of the summer workshop course where students focused on a number of variables responsible for making a downtown more resilient. The assessment for resiliency fol­lowed a framework introduced by Michael Bu­rayidi in his book Resilient Downtowns – A New Approach to Revitalizing Small- and Medium-City Downtowns. This includes exploring the possi­bilities of improvements in retail development, downtown living, immigration, heritage and cul­tural tourism, civic and cultural amenities, down­town design, and leadership and partnerships.

The Assessing Downtown Canton report can be found on our website

American Planning Association Illinois Chapter Student Award Wed, 09 Nov 2016 11:14:00 +0000 When first-year Master of Urban Planning student Marcia Klopf began her search for a master's capstone project, she was looking for a project which would combine her interests in historic preservation and urban design. Through Kathie Brown, a University of Illinois Extension Educator for Community and Economic Development (serving Fulton, Mason, Peoria and Tazewell Counties), Marcia found the perfect match—The City of Washington. Beginning the project in November 2014, one year after an EF-4 tornado devastated parts of the small Central Illinois community, Marcia focused on Washington's historic commercial downtown. The goal was to protect the City of Washington's historic downtown Square and to celebrate its historic resources.

Through this community engagement project,a comprehensive group of materials developed, covering the National Register of Historic Places, local designation, design guidelines, and a resource book, all interwoven with outstanding public participation. The following documents were created in the course of this project, which can serve as a tool for other communities looking to preserve their historic downtown:

Washington Historic Commercial Square: Preliminary Application for National Register listing;

• National Register Determination for Washington Square Commercial Historic District;

• Washington Historic District Survey (158 people, 19 questions);

• Washington Historic Commercial Square Survey Results;

Washington Historic Survey Summary Results;

Washington Historic Preservation Ordinance (Local Historic District Designation);

Washington Square Commercial Historic District Design Review Guidelines; and

Washington Square Commercial Local Historic District Resource Book.

Working with U of I Extension and the City of Washington, Planning and Zoning Director Jon Oliphant, Marcia participated in more than 20 public meetings, including those with property owners, the Historic Preservation Commission, the Chamber of Commerce, and City Council. Extensive public participation, including a survey (targeted to residents of, employees of, and visitors to the historic Square), was effectively used to ensure understanding, transparency, and support of the new designation of a Local Commercial Historic District. Education worked in tandem with public participation to ensure a successful project. Because of the high quality and comprehensiveness of this planning effort, this project was selected as the 2016 American Planning Association Illinois Chapter Student Award.

For more information about the Community and Economic Development programs in the Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Extension Unit, please contact Kathleen Brown, Extension Educator,at or 309-255-9189.

Peoria Named Finalist in Play Everywhere Challenge Mon, 03 Oct 2016 17:14:00 +0000 In July, City of Peoria was selected as a finalist in the Play Everywhere Challenge, a $1 million national competition that will award outside-the-box ideas to make play easy, available, and fun for kids and families in cities across the U.S. The Challenge is hosted by KaBOOM!, a national non-profit dedicated to bringing balanced and active play into the daily lives of all children, particularly those growing up in poverty in America. The project titled Lots of Fun! was selected as a finalist out of a pool of more than 1,000 applications nationwide.

University of Illinois School of Architecture professor Lynne Dearborn collaborated with University of Illinois Extension educator Kathie Brown to implement her spring studio course in Peoria as part of a cross campus initiative designed to enrich student learning and address complex community issues such as health in the built environment. Students in the studio course provided initial ideas for the winning design concept. Kathie Brown, University of Illinois Extension educator, facilitated community engagement with City of Peoria, neighborhood residents, and organizations.

This effort aligns with the City of Peoria's overall goals for creating a green infrastructure to aid in storm water collection and creating healthy neighborhoods. Organizations working to implement the student concept included Peoria's Innovation Team, Peoria's Community Development departments, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Invest Health programming partners, Peoria County Health Department, and University of Illinois Extension. The team created an innovative plan to transform vacant lots in Peoria's Southside Neighborhood.

"The design transforms the lots into spaces that include interactive features such as bus stops, art installations, bike racks, and landscapes featured in the rendering," stated Kate Green, Project Manager City of Peoria Innovation Team. "The concept of the project is to re-imagine how features of the built environment can be both functional and fun at the same time while instilling the idea that play is possible everywhere."

Peoria's idea came from a passion for getting kids more involved in physical activity and art. Even though the project was not selected as a winner in the challenge, the team continues to work towards other funding options to help the Lots of Fun! project come to life.

To learn more about the Play Everywhere Challenge, including a gallery of ideas for what Play Everywhere could look like across the U.S., visit

For more information about the Designing Healthy Communities cross campus initiative project read the June 2016 Extension Snapshot at

Safe Routes to Learn and Play Thu, 08 Sep 2016 15:27:00 +0000 Walking and biking to school, once a dominant method of transportation has seen a sharp decline in the past several decades. A new movement called Safe Routes to School (SRTS) aims at increasing safe walking and biking to school, for reasons related to community health, environmental health, and transportation.

University of Illinois Extension working in partnership with UIUC Graduate Students in Urban and Regional Planning examined aspects of the built environment in East Bluff, a neighborhood in Peoria, as part of the Designing Healthy Communities Initiative. The Designing Healthy Communities Initiative is funded by Office of the Provost and College of ACES Illinois Extension and Outreach Initiative and is partnered with the City of Peoria. The focus was to analyze and then improve neighborhood and school connectivity to parks, playgrounds, and open play spaces. The culmination of the project was the creation of a Safe Routes to Learn and Play plan. This plan is a combination of the National Safe Routes to School (SRTS) and Safe Routes to Parks, linked in their goal of increasing safe, active transportation in children. Active transportation focuses on walking and biking, and the plan looks at the infrastructure, such as sidewalks, lights, and curbs, as well as non-infrastructure issues such as education and perceptions. Safe Routes are important in promoting community health and fitness, and creating a safer built environment for all. The plan focuses on the corridors between Glen Oak Primary School and Glen Oak Park. We looked at the pedestrian and bike infrastructure using walkability tools and community input sessions and analyzed data such as crashes, sidewalk locations, and the demographics of the area. Using the community input and data, the plan laid out recommendations for infrastructure improvements and education and encouragement programs. Also included are designated 'safe routes' for travel to the school and to the park.
You can download the East Bluff Safe Routes to School Report complete with survey tools and resources to support work in your community.

Safe Routes to School National Partnership recently released a report that grades each state on how they support walking, biking, and physical activity policies. It's a cool way to assess where states are, but also clearly highlights specific areas for improvement.

Grades were calculated based on four key areas:
(1) Complete streets and active transportation,
(2) Safe routes to school and active transportation funding,
(3) Active neighborhoods and schools, and
(4) State physical activity planning and support

So, is your state making strides with walking/biking policies or is it just starting to lace up?

See Community Commons recent article Posted on May 24, 2016 by Andria Caruthers. to learn more about your state's score.