By SAMANTHA PIDDE

Representatives from Rock Island Economic Growth Corporation (GROWTH) expect groundbreaking on the first two phases of Shimer Square development in Mount Carroll to happen early this spring.

The Mount Carroll Planning Commission and City Council Tuesday, Dec. 14, approved zoning for the Shimer Square project and heard and update on the Phase One and Phase Two plans.

The Planning Commission met via Zoom regarding a petition to approve the final plat of subdivision for Phase Two of the Shimer Square project for McKee, Hostetter and Dezendorf halls and designating zoning.

Brian Hollenback, GROWTH CEO, which now owns the former Shimer College campus, attended the Zoom meeting to answer questions. No comments were made by the public, but one resident who recently moved across from the property was in attendance to learn more about the Shimer Square project.

Hollenback said the zoning represents GROWTH’S plans in breaking down the overall project into different phases, noting, "It's more that we're planning ahead."

Hollenback said almost $35 million in funding has been secured for the first two phases of development. He said this will include approximately 88 housing units as well as work on the sign and the rehabilitation of the Sawyer House as an office and resource center. Phase One includes the renovation of Bennett and Hathaway halls.

Planning Commission members approved a motion to recommend the approval of the ordinance by the city council. Hollenback was asked for an update on both Phase One and Phase Two and heard questions from the Planning Commission.

Hollenback said GROWTH is preparing to begin Phase One and Phase Two soon, explaining they were delayed waiting for a Rebuild Illinois grant, which has now been received.

GROWTH plans to have a "significant" groundbreaking event for both phases at the same time. Hollenback anticipated this would take place sometime next March or April.

He addressed how this will affect Mayfest, offering assurance the festival will take place on the campus. Hollenback said Mayfest will simply have a different "footprint" due to the construction, adding they did not want to simply say no.

Planning Commission member Jud Smith asked about GROWTH’S plans for Sawyer House, the old infirmary and the old gymnasium. To Smith's question if GROWTH would rent out Sawyer House, Hollenback reiterated that they plan to maintain it as an office and resource center. Hollenback said an "entity" has expressed interest in the infirmary for a retail purpose.

Smith continued to push for plans for the gymnasium and infirmary, suggesting the area could be used for a community center. He asked if the City Council had spoken with GROWTH about the infirmary being used for the William J. Davis Community Center.

"There are many conversations going on," Hollenback said.

Smith said that while he knows a location next to the middle school has been chosen for the community center, he thought Shimer Square would be a good location for it.

"It would be a nice place to honor Mr. Davis," Smith said.

Mayor Carl Bates reminded Smith that the community center location already has been chosen, but he was confident the gymnasium and infirmary sites would be utilized in some fashion. Hollenback said GROWTH eventually plans to address and develop the entire campus, except the old pump house, which will be demolished.

The city council unanimously approved the zoning ordinance and final plat, per the recommendation of the Planning Commission, at its Dec. 14 Zoom meeting.