By SAMANTHA PIDDE
The Economic Growth Corporation of Rock Island (GROWTH) is moving forward with plans for the former Shimer College/Campbell Center campus and is looking for input from the community.
The Rock Island Economic Growth Corporation is a not-for-profit economic development entity dedicated to "enhancing the overall image and economic vitality of underserved communities."
During the Tuesday, April 30, Mount Carroll City Council meeting, GROWTH President and CEO Brian Hollenback gave a presentation on what they are doing at the campus. He handed out ballots to the council to help the corporation decide on a new name for the project, while honoring the history of the campus. GROWTH also is seeking the opinions of the public on the potential names.
An official ballot for the campus renaming appears in this week's Carroll County Mirror-Democrat, Savanna Times-Journal and Northwestern Illinois Dispatch as well as on the newspaper's website. The public is invited to vote for one of the options (or utilize the "write-in" space) and submit ballots at the Mirror-Democrat, 308 N. Main St., Mount Carroll. Ballots can also be mailed to the newspaper at P.O. Box 191, Mount Carroll, IL 61053.
The five choices on the ballot are: Shimer Woods, Shimer Center, Pillars of Mount Carroll, Shimer Square, write-in option.
All votes are to be in by Thursday, May 16. Hollenback and his staff hope to announce the new name at Mayfest May 24-26 on the Shimer College campus.
Hollenback said that once a name is selected, GROWTH can move forward with the creation of a website as well as a video to be showcased at Mayfest.
Hollenback said bringing Mayfest back to the Shimer College campus has been a major part of Phase 1 of the project, noting, "We really wanted Mayfest to be the focus of the start of the new beginning.”
He said he is very thankful to all of the volunteers working on Mayfest. Representatives from the Economic Growth Corporation (GROWTH) will be present at Mayfest to introduce themselves, announce the new name, showcase the marketing video, provide information on the corporation's plans, programs and services and establish a "community contact list."
"Be sure to come out at Mayfest," Hollenback said.
Hollenback gave a rough overview of the entire Campbell Center project, highlighting each phase on a map handout. He expects the total project could span five to seven years and see total development costs exceed $60 million. Phase 1 includes working on the entire campus for historic tax credits.
Hollenback said he and his staff are looking forward to developing the historic campus and encouraging economic growth, saying, "Our intentions are pure. Our most important commitment is to protect the buildings, plural, its contents and the grounds."
Both Phase 1 and 2 include developing several of the buildings into potential housing units. Hollenback addressed concerns that the units would all be low-income housing. He said that while state and federal regulations mandate some of the housing would have to be for low-income renters, that would only be 25 percent of the housing.
Hollenback also said he was excited to announce that a letter of intent has been signed by a business to potentially utilize the former Howe Hall, located just off of South Jackson Street, as a microbrewery, restaurant and lodging. While he did not identify the business owners, he said this was a microbrewery that GROWTH has worked with before, which is looking to expand to a second location.
Hollenback said the business owners have visited the Campbell Center campus and have fallen in love with the property and the area. Work on creating this business in Howe Hall is slated for part of Phase 2.
Hollenback could not identify all of the hopes and plans for the campus, but said GROWTH is looking at many possible ways to expand commerce and job creation. He said he and his staff feel Mount Carroll is a "destination place" and that this project can serve as a great "incubator" for more business and development.
"We don't want to compete with the downtown, we want to complement the downtown," Hollenback said.
Hollenback also informed the council of two grant programs which could benefit area homeowners. The owner-occupied rehabilitation program grant assists seniors with mobility issues to allow them to continue living in their homes as long as possible.
Another grant highlighted by Hollenback can help homeowners below the 80 percent median income to address health and safety concerns and code violations. Information about these programs are available at https://www.economicgrowthcorporation.com. Those interested in applying can call GROWTH Housing Manager James Jones at 309-788-6311.
The council and Mayor Carl Bates thanked Hollenback for his presentation.
"We look forward to having you back in a few months (for an update)," Mayor Bates said.