Economic Growth honored for Shimer Square

Rock Island Economic Growth Corp. received the Non-Profit of the Year Award last week from Northwest Illinois Economic Development for its redevelopment work on Shimer Square, formerly Shimer College in Mount Carroll. Pictured are, from left, Adrian Madunic, Economic Development Specialist for the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity; Brian Hollenback, President/CEO for Economic Growth Corporation; Jon Davidshofer, Multifamily Development Director for Economic Growth Corporation; and Beth Baranski, Architect for Baranski Hammer Moretta & Sheehy Architects.

Northwest Illinois Economic Development has selected Rock Island Economic Growth Corporation (d/b/a Economic Growth Corporation (GROWTH)) as nonprofit of the year for its redevelopment work on Shimer Square, formerly Shimer College, in Mount Carroll.

The award recognizes GROWTH and its impact the Shimer Square redevelopment will have for the area communities with its added housing, business space, and placemaking.

GROWTH was honored Thursday, March 12, during the annual meeting for Northwest Illinois Economic Development at Eagle Ridge Resort in Galena.

GROWTH took title for the former Shimer College campus on Dec. 31, 2018. The campus contains 17 buildings on 14 acres and is centrally located within Mount Carroll, where the school was founded in the early 1850s.

Since taking title, GROWTH has been working diligently on the comprehensive redevelopment of the former college campus into a mixture of housing, business, and community amenities.

Its first effort was bringing back a beloved community festival, Mayfest, to the campus during Memorial Day Weekend.

It followed up with the renaming the campus — through a ballot published in the Carroll County Mirror-Democrat — by asking the community to cast a vote on their favorite name, which resulted in a tie. A coin toss by the mayor determined the final name of Shimer Square.

A website,, was developed as a way to keep the community informed of GROWTH's redevelopment efforts.

Professional curators came to the site in July 2019 to help provide direction and to assist with taking inventory of all the historical items that have remained, and will remain, on the campus.

Shimer Square's overall redevelopment effort will consist of artist/live/work space, senior and family housing, as well as community quality of life amenities.

GROWTH is finalizing the pieces of financing to kick off its first phase of Shimer Square's redevelopment efforts that will result in the creation of 37 rental housing units within two buildings on the campus.

The project costs for the first phase exceed $9.2 million. The effort is expected to take up to seven years with a total investment exceeding $60 million.

"As a community-based development organization, we look to fill the needs of a community,” said Brian Hollenback, president/CEO for GROWTH. “We are humbled to accept such an award from Northwest Illinois Economic Development and even more humbled for the opportunity to redevelop such a historic, strategic campus by preserving its legacy and advancing shared community plans to reignite the campus for the future.”

Added Hollenback, “We are eager to get underway with our redevelopment efforts that will increase opportunities by generating business growth, housing opportunities, community development, recreation, and job creation."