Asset or nuisance? Peoria shopping center with 'chronic' issues being put up for auction

The Valley Park Shopping Center, 200 N. MacArthur Highway in Peoria.
The Valley Park Shopping Center, 200 N. MacArthur Highway in Peoria.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story misidentified Marut Shah as the property manager for Valley Park Shopping Center. He is an attorney for MacArthur Plaza Investments LLC.

A long-embattled shopping center on MacArthur Highway in Peoria is going up for auction on Sept. 11.

Valley Park Shopping Center, located next to the Shell gas station at 200 N. MacArthur Highway, has been listed for auction after years of crime and disrepair.

Peoria police, community development and civic leaders have been keeping a watchful eye on the 22,900-square-foot property for years as it fell into a state of disrepair and became a hotspot for crime, peaking with the fatal shooting death of Joshua Perkins at the site in 2021.

In August, the owner of the shopping center, MacArthur Plaza Investments LLC, was fined $124,200 by Peoria's community development department for code violations that included major potholes in the parking lot, boarded up windows and improperly screened dumpsters.

Community Development Director Joe Dulin said this is not the first time code violations have been leveled against Valley Park Shopping Center. A few years ago, the site was asked to replace its roof and redo its entire parking lot.

While the shopping center addressed the issues in the past, Dulin said the city has not seen "sustained progress" at the property in fixing its current violations.

The property owner, who Dulin said is appealing the fines, will have to appear before a hearing officer. Haresh Shah is the registered agent for MacArthur Plaza Investments LLC, and Marut Shah is the attorney for the property.

Shah represents MacArthur Investments on lease and transactional matters, including arranging a meeting between Peoria code enforcement officials and property owners to address code infractions. He does not represent the property in court matters.

A phone number for MacArthur Plaza Investments has been disconnected.

"Traditionally, property owners that work with us do not end up at (hearings) two different times with violations," Dulin said. "I think when we initially had the concerns a few years ago, we had some discussions and some progress, but it just wasn't sustainable progress throughout that time frame."

Dulin said most of Peoria's shopping centers are "very good neighbors and very good representations of their community." When asked how it was dealing with the Valley Park Shopping Center, Dulin said the following:

"The most common problem we usually have with shopping centers is that time of year when potholes are really bad and they have to repave their parking lot and you see them do that on their own. They want to make those good, conscious decisions for their customers to make it an attractive place to shop," Dulin said. "I think any time you have a property that chooses not to do that and you have to take an enforcement action against, I think that speaks to answer your question."

Dulin said the city does not have a preference on whether the property sells to a new owner. But it would like to see the property come into compliance.

If the property does sell, the old owners would still be on the hook for the code violations.

"Our preference is for every property owner in Peoria to have their property be compliant and be respectful to the neighborhood they're in," Dulin said. "And so, if the property owner chooses to do that, we're happy to support them and appreciate what they do. If they choose not to do that, we're happy to take enforcement action against them."

The Valley Park Shopping Center, 200 N. MacArthur Highway in Peoria.
The Valley Park Shopping Center, 200 N. MacArthur Highway in Peoria.

'An asset, rather than a nuisance'

City Councilmember Denise Jackson, whose 1st District is home to the shopping center, said she would like to see the shopping center "become an asset, rather than a nuisance" to the community.

"We just had one chronic problem after another that had gone on," Jackson said. "I had seniors tell me they weren't going into CEFCU because they were concerned for their safety, people loitering."

In its current state, the shopping center is a mix of vacant store fronts headlined by covered and dirty windows, a beauty store, CEFCU bank and the Shell gas station.

To become an asset for the community, both Dulin and Jackson said the shopping center could do right by becoming a major player in the city's overall effort to revitalize the MacArthur Highway business corridor. The effort has $10 million of state funding behind it.

"There are vacancies there, and we would love to see businesses come there," Jackson said. "There's a barrage of businesses that could potentially serve the community. It's on a main thoroughfare, it's traffic that goes up and down MacArthur all day."

Dulin said the city has been working to make infrastructure improvements in the corridor as well as attract new housing. He believes the shopping center could be a significant commercial asset to the project if it is invested in properly.

"The MacArthur corridor is something that is a centralized focus for the city. We welcome someone who would make some significant investments in that shopping center to make it a contributing property of the neighborhood," Dulin said.

Specifically, Jackson said stores such as a Dollar General, grocery or retail could go a long way in helping that area of Peoria.

"When you have a business that has become an asset to the community and you have that flow of traffic, people feel welcome to stop and get gas," Jackson said. "But when you have a business that deteriorates and all kinds of illegal activity, people don't feel safe and they stop patronizing the business.

"We want to make sure it continues to be a viable asset on the south side," Jackson added.

This article originally appeared on Journal Star: Valley Park Shopping Center in Peoria, IL is put up for auction