Taft Homes is located just north of downtown Peoria, along the Illinois River. Built in 1952, the 44 wood frame buildings were constructed as temporary shelter for Korean War veterans. Now, more than two hundred apartments ranging from one to five bedrooms can accommodate even large families.
Taft Homes sits at the northern edge of development along the Illinois River. Some of the riverfront development includes a $20-million RiverPlex (a health and fitness recreation center) built with cooperation from the Peoria Park District and OSF St. Francis Medical Center; the Gateway Building (used for meetings, conventions and weddings), an outdoor stage, visitors center, paddlewheel boat, restaurants, marina and park area.
In 1996, the 220 units at Taft underwent extensive rehabilitation from top to bottom. Siding, flooring, electrical and plumbing updated the units, making them more energy efficient and home-like. Attractive fencing, lighting, sidewalks, parking lots and roads completed the makeover.
During the rehab effort, the PHA embarked on a unique project to tear down 15 of the buildings at Taft closest to the river that had become a haven for illicit activity. The "Demolition to Dreams" program, as it was called, became a cooperative effort. The U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy Seabees and Illinois Air National Guard provided heavy equipment operators. They joined the Operating Engineers Local 649, Laborers Local 165 and the West Central Illinois Building and Construction Trades Council to demolish the buildings, using equipment donated by Caterpillar. Local utility companies disconnected water, gas and telephone lines without charge. Seven weekends later, the buildings were demolished and five acres of cleared land acted as interface between the residential area and the very public riverfront.
Taft Homes is patrolled by the Peoria Housing Authority's private security force and police. PHA has a parking policy to assure convenient parking.
Taft Homes has a strong "Adopt-A-Block" relationship with the Dream Center Peoria organization. Multiple services for children and adults are provided through that relationship.
The vision for the future of Taft is to redevelop the site in phases beginning with the vacant land where 15 buildings, 130 units were demolished in 1996. PHA hopes to create a mixed-income neighborhood that would include some market-rate housing. A Community Needs Assessment was done to discuss with current Taft Homes residents what they would be interested in seeing with the redevelopment. Many great ideas came from this study and currently PHA is working with LISC and a consultant to identify how to move further with the redevelopment of Taft Homes.