By SAMANTHA PIDDE

Representatives from the Rock Island Economic Growth Corporation (GROWTH) say that even though no dirt is currently being moved at its Shimer Square property in Mount Carroll, that does not mean the project is not moving forward.

GROWTH took ownership of the Campbell Center/Shimer College property almost a year ago. Since then, representatives have outlined a multi-million dollar, multi-phase project which will include public housing, commercial property and other uses.

In a telephone interview Wednesday, Nov. 27, Construction Director Andrew Fisher told the Carroll County Mirror-Democrat that many people have expressed concerns that nothing is moving forward at the former college campus.

"What they don't see is the thousands of hours...to follow these steps for the tax credits," Fisher said.

A great deal of GROWTH's funding sources for the project are set to come from tax credits from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA).

As part of the process to apply and receive this funding, GROWTH must prepare a report or "narrative" about the property which is to be submitted to the IHPA at 10 a.m. on Feb. 26, 2020.

Fisher said this document must include descriptions of each building on the campus along with a "photo key log" accompanied by more than 4,000 photos.

"You have to catalogue every room in every building," Fisher explained. "You have to take a photo of every corner of every room and every corridor."

The first phase of the project includes the renovation of Bennett and Hathaway halls, both former dormitories, into one-bedroom and studio apartments.

Fisher told the Mirror-Democrat that GROWTH initially thought they would just have to prepare and submit a narrative and photos of these two buildings at this time.

However, the state informed them that the corporation would have to submit the document and photos for all 17 buildings on the property. Monday, Nov. 25, GROWTH staff spent many hours photographing every minute detail.

"If you want to utilize their credits,” Fisher said, “you have to do it how they tell you to.”

This additional work has delayed the project slightly, but Fisher said the good news is the documentation will be complete when GROWTH moves onto later phases of the project.

Once the narrative and photographs are submitted in February, the project then must compete against all of the other projects in the state. Fisher said he feels GROWTH has a very good chance of being awarded the tax credit money due to the size of the project and the history of the campus.

Assuming the project receives the tax credits, Fisher hopes to start the bidding process in the Fall of 2020. Once the project is bid and construction begins, he said the renovation of the two buildings should take between 10 and 12 months.

Fisher added that as the process continues, GROWTH will make every effort to keep Mount Carroll city officials and the public aware of what is happening.

"We're here to stay and to make it work," Fisher said.