Shimer Square plans

Mount Carroll City Council members Ald. Jeff Elliott, left, and Ald. Joe Grim listen to Economic Growth Corporation of Rock Island president Brian Hollenback (not pictured) discuss the Shimer Square housing project Tuesday, Sept. 10.


Representatives from the Economic Growth Corporation of Rock Island (GROWTH) told the Mount Carroll city officials last week that they hope to see 37 apartments available at Shimer Square (the Campbell Center) in less than a year-and-a-half.

GROWTH President/CEO Brian Hollenback and Multifamily Development Director John Davidshofer gave an update on the multi-phase project at the Tuesday, Sept. 10, Mount Carroll City Council meeting..

"As with anything of this size,” Hollenback said, “it takes a lot of effort and proper planning.”

GROWTH took over the former Shimer College campus last December. Much of last winter and early spring were spent planning Mayfest and the re-naming of the former Campbell Center for Historic Presrevation property to Shimer Square. Hollenback expressed thanks to everyone who participated in this process.

In July the non-profit organization brought in licensed curators from the Putnam Museum in Davenport, Iowa, to take an inventory of the historical items remaining on the campus. Last month GROWTH applied for and received its Historic Preservation Part I approval.

"It's another way you know that someone is keeping watch over the construction," said Hollenback.

Hollenback and Davidshofer spoke of Phase 1, estimated to cost $9 million, to renovate Bennett and Hathaway halls into one-bedroom and studio apartments.

The Bennett Hall renovation will generate 19 total units — six studio apartments and 13 one-bedroom apartments. At Hathaway Hall, Growth plans 18 units — four studio units and 14 one-bedroom units.

As part of the project, 25 percent of the units will be "workforce" (lower-income) apartments, for people with an income of between $27,900 and $39,780. There will be six of these workforce housing units in Bennett Hall and four in Hathaway Hall.

Monthly rent for the "workforce housing" units will be $570. The rent of the normal "market rate" units will be $650 in Hathaway Hall and $750 in Bennett Hall. Rent will include water, but no other utilities. Hollenback said they have structured the unit mix so it is available to everyone and is inclusive.

Hollenback said he expects to see construction on these two buildings begin before the end of the current year. Work will take no more than 12 months, he added.

He noted that due to the existing layout of the two buildings, they are unable to offer any two-bedroom apartments. However, Hollenback said he hopes to see some larger apartment units available in future phases.

The Phase 1 cost ($9,078,824) consists of $6,930,197 in construction costs, $1,309,450 in soft costs, $274,766 in financing costs, $392,919 interim costs, and $171,492 in reserves. Hollenback said GROWTH made sure to build the $171,000 contingency (reserves) funds into the cost.

"If you don't properly manage something,” he explained, “you will leave a community worse off.”

Most of the project funds will come from tax credits and rebates. For this project, GROWTH expects to receive $1,331,218 from the Federal Historic Tax Credit, $1,453,620 from the State Historic Tax Credit, $3,256,890 from the Illinois Affordable Housing Tax Credit (IAHTC) and $260,000 from a Nicor Energy Rebate.

Hollenback assured Ald. Doug Bergren that the state has agreed to consider each phase as a separate project, which is important, he said, as the state's tax credit has a $3 million cap for a single project.

GROWTH also has factored in a $1,915,000 first mortgage and a $372,096 "owner's contribution" from GROWTH. At some point, Growth expects to seek a contribution from the city of Mount Carroll.

GROWTH will be launching its Capital Campaign this month on its new website, which should be up and running some time this week. According to an information packet provided by Hollenback. the entire development project will span five to seven years involving five phases and will see an "unprecedented investment of more than $60 million (through various funding sources).

The five-to-seven-year plan would see the creation of safe, quality housing; the conversion of historic properties to new commercial leasing opportunities; providing opportunities for entrepreneurs, startups and artisans; the creation of jobs.

"With great opportunity comes great responsibility. GROWTH does not take this redevelopment effort lightly," stated the capital campaign packet, adding, "GROWTH is coming in with eyes wide open, setting realistic expectations and timelines in order to remain result-oriented, and revitalize Shimer Square into its highest and best use for the ultimate benefit of the community and its residents."

As part of the capital campaign, GROWTH is looking to raise $500,000 per year for five years ($2.5 million total). Hollenback and GROWTH are seeking capital contributions from the community and area businesses.

"We are asking you to join us in this redevelopment effort, to realize what could be, and make our shared vision a reality," stated GROWTH in the capital campaign packet.

Local resident and business owner, Linda Anderson asked if GROWTH was going to offer community members and former Shimer College alumni the chance to sponsor the project. Hollenback said the group is looking at possible fundraisers, such as people "buying" chairs or benches to sponsor the construction. He encouraged anyone with ideas for the capital campaign to visit the website and let them know.

"If you have a suggestion, we want to hear it," Hollenback said.

Mayor Carl Bates thanked Hollenback and Davidshofer for attending the meeting and for the work GROWTH has put into the property so far.

"It's an exciting opportunity for our community," Bates said.