Rick Buss, Peoria’s Economic Services director

Rick Buss, Peoria’s Economic Services director, called the American Life memorandum of understanding for Stadium Point “a game changer.” Stadium Point is to have retail, restaurants, residences, offices and a hotel.

This time next year, Peoria may be framed by two major projects. 

One plans to give Old Town Peoria a massive facelift; it doesn’t have an official name, though city staff dubbed it “Project Stagecoach.” 

The other is formally known as Stadium Point, a ground-up project in the P83 area. Peoria selected Seattle-based American Life to craft a vision for Stadium Point—and make it a reality. 

These are the kind of “game-changing” developments Economic Development Services Director Rick Buss sinks his teeth into.

In  February, the city signed a memorandum of understanding with Vintage Partners for the Old Town project. “Our next step is to finalize the development agreement, taking the framework and intent of the MOU and cementing all the details,” Buss said. He expects to present the development agreement to Peoria City Council in September.

The big-picture idea is a 10-year development for Peoria’s historic buildings, which would be modernized for what can be called “The Three R’s”: retail, restaurants and residential.

Stadium Point takes the Three R’s and adds high-rise office space, other commercial development—and a hotel.

Peoria and American Life agreed on a MOU for Stadium Point that Peoria Mayor Cathy Carlat called “a peek into the endless possibilities of our future, where residents have greater access to quality employment, retail and dining opportunities.”

In October,  Peoria issued a request for proposal for an experienced master developer to convert 17 acres of city-owned land near the Peoria Sports Complex  into Stadium Point at P83.  The site is near 83rd Avenue and Bell Road.

Seventy developers attended Peoria’s pre-proposal meeting in November. But only four submitted proposals.

“There were several that were interested but not ready to submit proposals,” Buss said.

But part of the plan by Peoria was to move the project forward, with a developer that could hit Peoria running.

Rookies did not need to apply.

“We were very specific  with what we were looking for. We were really looking for someone who had done this before—who had a vision financial and the wherewithal to do to it. Somebody who could move quickly,” Buss said.

“We plan on being aggressive with this.”

American Life, which has developed mixed-use projects in Seattle, Los Angeles and Atlanta, fit the bill, Buss said.

The Seattle Times reported American Life was fined $1.2 million in 2016 by the Securities Exchange Commission, in a complaint that alleged improper use of the federal EB-5 program, which allows foreigners to obtain green cards if they invest $500,000 to $1 million in job-creating projects.

“We knew about it and vetted it,” Buss said of the SEC American Life case. “It turned out to be a nonissue.”

He said he was impressed by American Life’s track record: “They’re an experienced master developer that has done this before. They have the ability to design, fund, construct and operate a game-changing project.”

And Buss said he was not concerned about American Life being headquartered 1,400 miles away. “They have partners here as part of their team,” Buss said. “And their president just bought a house here.”

He was referring to  Greg Steinhauer, president of American Life.

“We are delighted to partner with the city to develop the Stadium Point site. The complex will create a mix of uses combining Class A office, hotel, multifamily and retail that is unique to the area,” Steinhauer said.

 “The live-work-and-play experience will bring unparalleled amenities to the Peoria market; create high-quality jobs; enhance the sports complex; and set a new standard for offerings available to visitors, sports fans, residents and businesses in the Peoria community.”

Under this Stadium Point MOU, Peoria and American Life have six months to negotiate provisions of a development agreement that includes financing options, a master plan, project milestones and timeline.

Five miles north of the Stadium Point site, another big project is coming to Peoria.

Taronis Fuels, “a global producer of renewable and socially responsible fuel products,” is moving its headquarters from Florida to 83rd Avenue and Happy Valley Road.

“We competed pretty hard to get the manufacturing here in Peoria. They’ve been a great group to work with, and we look forward to helping them build on their success,” Buss said.

Taronis will take over a Pima Door plant that is now vacant. Upward of 400 additional jobs will be at its advanced manufacturing site, near 89th Avenue and Cactus Road.