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8 PPEEOORRIIAA,, AARRIIZZOONNAA • www. visitpeoriaaz. com and shares the story of that transfor-mation with museum visitors. The City of Peoria was established after the completion of the Arizona Canal in 1885, which brought to fruition William J. Murphy's vision of farming in the desert using water from the Salt River. Murphy recruited settlers from Peoria, Illinois to venture west and build a new community out of once barren desert. Those pioneers gave the city its idyllic name reflective of its Midwest roots. Substantial growth While its history dates back 122 years, Peoria has seen some of the most tremendous change in just the last few decades. In 1980, it was still a small town with only about 12,000 residents. Since then it's grown into the state's fourth largest city — covering 178 square miles — and ninth most- popu-lous with more than 146,000 residents. Peoria was the third- fastest growing city in Arizona from 2000 to 2006, with an expected population up to 500,000 at build- out in 50 years. WELCOME TO PEORIA, ARIZONA TOP/ ABOVE: Park West, near the new University of Phoenix Stadium, is one of Peoria's new mixed- use developments. LEFT: The city's $ 110 million Butler Drive Water Reclamation Facility is a model center for sustainability. The northern reaches of Peoria are seeing the biggest transformation as communities such as Lake Pleasant Heights, West Wing and the mas-sive 7,100- acre Vistancia community flourish. With 13 communities under construction or planned for the area around Lake Pleasant and Pinnacle Peak roads, the population for northern Peoria is expected to reach more than 115,000 by 2025, the city estimates. The surge of residents moving into northern Peoria has attracted a flurry of development. New retail stores, restaurants and a planned hospital join city- led improvements such as a new 22,000 square- foot library scheduled to open early 2009. The future Loop 303 will cut through northern Peoria as it provides a vital West Valley connection between I- 17 and I- 10 — making this one of the areas with the most potential for business development. An estimated 116,000 jobs could be created in the area over the next 25 years, says Peoria's economic development director, Steve Prokopek. Downtown redevelopment While the desert in north Peoria has seen a rush of new residential, com-mercial and business development, the city's original downtown also sees transformation in its future. The area has long been considered the heart of the city and it is also the center of city government. Twenty years ago the city built its massive $ 30 million municipal campus and recently opened an adja-cent $ 19 million city building. Redevelopment plans for downtown Peoria were kicked off with the opening of the city's $ 13 million performing arts center where Theater Works, a long-time West Valley nonprofit arts group, will hold shows for the next 20 years. Several infill housing developments were added to the downtown area a few years ago. Plans call for building a pedestrian- friendly downtown that harkens back to its small- town roots, with three sizable planned projects offering a mix of residential, retail and office space. With such a promising future, Peoria proves you don't have to travel far to find all you are searching for in a vibrant Southwest city. ?

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