By SAMANTHA PIDDE

Phase One of the Shimer Square project continues to move forward following a special meeting of the Mount Carroll Planning Commission.

Planning Commission members Wayne Knight, Teri Ebensberger, Anthony Herrell and Judson Smith met Monday, Feb. 8, to consider the final plat for the subdivision of Shimer Square Plat 1, by the Rock Island Economic Growth Corporation (GROWTH). GROWTH Vice President Jon Davidshofer, Mayor Carl Bates, city council members and others participated in the Zoom meeting.

Davidshofer explained the Plat 1 subdivision covers Bennett and Hathaway halls along with the renovation of Sawyer House. The commission's approval of the final plat allows GROWTH to get closer "to the closing table" for Phase 1.

This subdivision is specific to the first phase and Davidshofer explained each phase of the proposed multi-phase, multi-million-dollar project will have its own subdivision plat.

"We'll carve out each piece and come back to you for approval," Davidshofer said.

Knight asked how easements and ownership of roads within the subdivision will be handled. Davidshofer confirmed that road maintenance within the campus would be the responsibility of GROWTH.

Davidshofer fielded questions regarding funding for Phase One and possible start dates for construction on the phase. He explained that GROWTH applied for $1.5 million in Rebuild Illinois grant funds, which will be announced no later than March.

If GROWTH receives this grant, along with other funding and tax credit equity it has secured, Davidshofer said he could see a start date to the construction by the end of May or early June. Construction is expected to take nine months.

Ald. Mike Risko asked how much of Phase One will be designated for affordable housing. Phase One is set to create 37 housing units and Davidshofer said 13 of those units are restricted to 60 percent AMI (Area Median Income)

Risko voiced a concern about GROWTH removing too many trees from the campus and affecting its existing arboretum status. Davidshoffer said they are trying to remove as few trees as possible and to his knowledge are not removing any of the arboretum trees.

A couple of trees are slated to be removed in Phase One for a parking lot, but Davidshofer said GROWTH is open to planting new trees. Smith offered that depending on their size, some of the trees could be uprooted by a tree digger and relocated.

Russell Construction of Davenport, Iowa, is set to handle Phase One construction.

Planning Commission members asked about GROWTH using more local contractors in the following phases. Davidshofer agreed that GROWTH like to use at least 15 percent local crews and will work to offer upcoming projects to area contractors.

Ebensberger voiced a concern about illegal immigrants in the area due to the project, explaining she would not want such individuals working on the job. Mayor Bates said all of the workers for the construction would be documented.

The Planning Commission unanimously approved a motion to accept a resolution regarding the final plat. The matter will be up for discussion and action at the Feb. 23 Mount Carroll City Council meeting.

Davidshofer said that although construction of Phase 1 has been delayed, it still in the "closing stage."

"The pandemic definitely played a role in the delay, as it had a significant impact on tax credit equity levels as well as construction costs," Davidshofer said in an email to the Mirror-Democrat. "We are doing the best we can and continue to have dialogue with all parties involved to get this phase to the closing table."

Davidshofer said GROWTH hopes to get the budget for the project resolved within the first quarter of this year, allowing them to officially close soon after. With construction estimated to take nine months, he said the first phase will be completed in 2022, instead of 2021, as initially planned.

In late January, the City Council also unanimously approved a letter of support for Phase 2. GROWTH submitted grant application documents on Jan. 22 for this phase.

Davidshofer said Phase 2 will encompass work in McKee, Hostetter and Dezendorf halls, creating 51 residential units. The announcement of these applications will take place in May.

Davidshofer said he hopes that GROWTH will be able to close on Phase 2 before the end of the year.

"We truly appreciate everyone's support for the redevelopment of Shimer Square," Davidshofer said.