There's a sense of well-being in the neighborhoods of the Peoria area. Homes are cared for, lawns and gardens are kept with evident pride. Here are all the comforts of living.

Lifestyles vary widely in communities of the Peoria area. A select few live in the old mansions that line the bluffs overlooking Upper Peoria Lake. More plentiful are the large new executive-style homes.

These continue to grow in numbers along the winding streets and cul de sacs of subdivisions in the hilly northern Peoria area. They have appealing names like Thousand Oaks Estates, Pembroke, Park Place, Oakbrook, and Deerbrook Estates. A few are gated to maximize residential privacy. Here in Peoria's rural reaches, as well, are found luxury condominium complexes where residents enjoy freedom from the responsibilities of exterior maintenance.

Comfortable, mid-size homes dominate throughout much of the Peoria area, built over the decades by couples who treasured and protected their investments. Many of these well-kept homes are now owned and occupied by second and third generations, for yards are outfitted with modern play equipment and young children romp about.

The homes of the Peoria area are part of what makes this a great place to live and raise a family.

Educational innovation has made Peoria Public Schools, District 150, an award-winner. The district is in the top five percent in the nation, when judged by "graduate outcomes," a criteria that combines college board scores and graduation rates. One of the district's 44 schools recently topped every other school in Illinois in Illinois Goals Assessment test scores. The district's school for academically gifted placed fifth in nationwide language arts competition.

Students in the district's five high schools choose from more than 200 individual courses. Included are advanced placement courses in English and calculus, plus five semesters of French and Spanish and four semesters of German. In addition, students can participate in several bands and choruses, and a variety of student clubs and organizations.

District 150 has developed three unique "Academy" programs, each preparing students for a specific career objective. The three are the Business Academy, the Health/Science Academy and the Industrial Technology Academy. The Business Academy involves area businesses in several ways, including planning, mentoring, field trips, and summer job opportunities. The Health/Science Academy offers comprehensive health occupation training and exposure to high-tech health equipment. The Industrial Technology Academy provides students with training in CAD/CAM (Computer Assisted Drafting and Computer Assisted Manufacturing) and CNC (Computer Numerical Control), as well as industrial welding, robotics, and new technologies.

High school students in adjacent Peoria Heights attend classes in a wholly unique structure - a round, multi-level school building whose interior is almost entirely open between class areas and level to level. More than 100 separate courses are offered in college preparatory, tech prep, and special education curriculums.

Notre Dame High School, in Peoria, is the culminating experience for Catholic students and others who desire a balanced high level education and continued faith development and personal formation. The school has an enrollment of about 1,000 young men and women and offers more than 95 courses in business, fine arts, foreign language, mathematics, religion, science, and social studies.

Parents have access to dozens of parochial elementary schools as alternatives to public education. Each offers a sound educational program with a religious foundation. In addition, there is a wide variety of preschools and daycare centers that augment the area's educational systems.

In total, there are 17 school districts in the peoria area, and 24 private and parochial schools.

Higher Education

The educational pathway to any career, including medicine, is a doorstep away for Peoria area students. Peoria is home to famed Bradley University, Illinois Central College, the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria, and Midstate College. Two nursing colleges are situated in the city and Eureka College is a short distance away.

The presence of Bradley University near midtown Peoria gives the city a college town atmosphere and influences its cultural attainments. The university is divided into five colleges (business administration, communications and fine arts, education and health services, engineering and technology, and liberal arts and sciences) and a graduate school that offers 12 degrees in 24 academic areas. More than 6,000 students attend Bradley University.

The university provides many services to area business and industry, including a business incubator and a small business development center. It also provides the services of Center for Business and Economic Research and the Center for Executive and Professional Development, among others. Bradley is the county's fifth largest employer.

Illinois Central College is situated on a 400 acre wooded campus in East Peoria. It has a branch campus in downtown Peoria and offers courses at 40 sites throughout the area. A two-year community college, Illinois Central attracts five out of every 10 of the area's graduating high school seniors who wish to continue their education. The college offers associate degrees in arts and sciences, engineering, general education, and applied science. In addition, it offers a variety of certificate programs. Many students who attain associate degrees transfer to four-year colleges and universities to complete their education.

ICC's Peoria campus is centered in two adjacent buildings in the heart of downtown. From here and from its main campus, the college works closely with area business and industry in tailoring courses to satisfy specific employment needs.

The University of Illinois College of Medicine is located on a 25-acre campus in downtown Peoria. The college was established in 1970 and enrolls about 50 students annually, giving it a total enrollment of 150. To date, it has graduated more than 900 doctors.

The college provides training in dermatology, family practice, internal medicine, neuroscience, obstetrics and gynecology, pathology, pediatrics, psychiatry, radiology, surgery, and physical medicine and rehabilitation. Nearby St. Francis Medical Center and Methodist Medical Center are the colleges primary clinical teaching affiliates.

MidState College is distinctive, offering training in aviation and related fields, such as travel/tourism, hotel/motel management, and aviation management. These courses are conducted at the colleges airport campus. The two-year college also provides career training in various healthcare, legal, and business professions from its main campus in downtown Peoria.

Historic Eureka College, in Eureka, gained recent fame as the alma mater of President Ronald Reagan. The four-year coeducational college was chartered in 1855.

Wherever they live, Peoria residents are seldom more than a few minutes away from a shopping center. More than a dozen attractive retail plazas and strip malls are located throughout the city, most often where primary arteries intersect. This convenience is enhanced by such facilities as Northwoods Mall, an enclosed, climate-controlled shopping center with three anchoring department stores and more than 100 other shops and boutiques on two levels with more than 65G,000 square feet of space. In the planning stages is a new mall that will have more than 1,000,000 square feet under roof.

Other major shopping centers in the community include Cherry Tree Center, Evergreen Square, Glen Hollow, Sheridan Village, Willow Knolls, Metro Centre and Northpoint, all with at least 200,000 square feet of selling space.

Though its focus is on business and professional offices, downtown Peoria still has plenty of shopping in major department stores, antique malls, and in Twin Towers Mall, shopping, dining, and office complex in the heart of the downtown area. Adding to the pleasant downtown atmosphere is the noontime aroma of charcoal broiling as the many sidewalk food vendors prepare their mouth-watering specialties.

The necessities of daily living are provided by numerous small convenience centers located along the city's major thoroughfares.

Retailers in the Peoria area generated more than $3,000,000,000 in sales annually.

There are more than 65 banks, credit unions, and savings institutions in the Peoria area. They assure a strong financial foundation and support economic growth in the area.

Peoria has long been recognized as a strong industrial center. In recent years the area has enjoyed a growing diversity in its business and industrial base, with the coming of new corporate centers and innovative high tech and other specialty firms.

Caterpillar remains the area's oldest and largest employer with more than 17,800 workers engaged in the creation of heavy earthmoving equipment for a world market. Caterpillars corporate headquarters, in the heart of downtown Peoria, is an imposing reminder of the company's importance in the community.

However, a dozen area businesses boast more than 1,000 employees and only three of these are manufacturers, a fact that demonstrates the areas growing business diversity. The manufacturers are Central Illinois Light Co., the public utility with 1,600 employees; Keystone Steel and Wire, also with 1,600 employed; and Komatsu-Dresser, maker of off highway equipment, employing 1,100 workers. Three are hospitals - St. Francis Medical Center, with 3,900 employees; Methodist Medical Center, with 2,600 workers; and Proctor Community Hospital, with 1,000 employees. Another three are educational institutions - Peoria Public Schools, which has more than 2,800 employees; Bradley University, with 1,200 employees; and Illinois Central College, with staff of 1,150. The final three large employers are the Post Office, Ruppman Marketing, and the Par-A-Dice riverboat casino.

These and hundreds more small to mid-size companies have achieved the area's lowest unemployment rate since 1980 4.7 percent. More than 169,000 people are employed in the Peoria area. The median household income is in excess of $38,000.

City government cooperates with business and industry to encourage continued growth. In 1994, the city's Enterprise Zone saw a total investment of more than $33,000,000, resulting in the retention of 2,900 jobs and the creation of more than 220 new jobs.

Peoria is located in the heart of a rich agricultural area Annual agricultural production of crops and livestock is valued at more than $304,000,000.

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