Early childhood center breaks ground at Shimer Square

Project partners in GROWTH’s early childhood development center at Shimer Square in Mount Carroll, Illinois, gathered Tuesday, June 4, for a groundbreaking ceremony at new construction project development. Pictured, from left, are: Andrew Fisher, construction director of GROWTH/ Growth General Contracting, LLC; Matt Krol and Jim Baranski of Baranski Hammer Moretta Sheehy Architects & Planners; Marcy Mendenhall, president/CEO of SAL Community Services; Nick Brunick, Applegate & Thorne-Thomsen; Karen Greiner of Baranski Hammer Moretta; Rita Obi, monitoring consultant for U.S. Department of Health & Human Services; Brian Hollenback, GROWTH president/CEO; Nancy Bandemer, Community Champion and director of Davis Community Center; Mount Carroll Mayor Carl Bates; Cindy Berg, CFO for GROWTH; and Lou Ann Hayes, Birth to Five. CREDIT GROWTH 

MOUNT CARROLL, Illinois – The revitalization of a former college campus here took another step forward this week with a groundbreaking of an Early Childhood Development Center by Rock Island-based Economic Growth Corp. (GROWTH). 

On Tuesday, June 4, project leaders and community officials gathered for a ceremonial launch of the new Early Childhood Development Center at 203 E. Seminary St. The center, which will create 27 new jobs and provide 83 childcare openings, is part of a larger historic restoration of the former Shimer College by GROWTH. 

Now known as Shimer Square campus, the site’s redevelopment is part of a plan to grow jobs and redevelop the college campus that was closed in 1979.  

The new center, the latest project to begin construction at the mixed-use development, will be adjacent to new housing units currently under construction on the Mount Carroll campus. 

The childcare center’s development team includes: Economic Growth Corporation, developer; Applegate & Thorne-Thomsen, legal counsel; Growth General Contracting, LLC; Baranski Hammer Moretta Sheehy, architect; and Home Base Property Management. 

For the past two years, GROWTH has been working to raise funding for the childcare center’s construction. After considering various options and existing campus buildings, it was determined that a new construction facility best meets the project’s needs, GROWTH said in a news release. 

In October 2022, GROWTH was awarded the maximum federal grant of $800,000 toward the childcare center’s $1.67 million development. The grant was awarded by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Office of Community Services through its Community Economic Development program. It was only the 2022 grantee from the State of Illinois.

Then in 2023, GROWTH – in collaboration with the City of Mount Carroll – conducted a feasibility study assessing the childcare needs for families within a 30-minute radius of the city and determined a strong demand for such a facility.

In addition, financial support has been made possible by Bridge Investment Community Development Corporation, the City of Mount Carroll, and the Joint-County Opportunity Benefit Support Fund. 

The planned center will boast more than 5,000 square feet and include a designated pick-up and drop-off location, a new parking lot, and plans for future expansion.

“The development of the Early Childhood Development Center at Shimer Square is a significant milestone in our ongoing efforts to foster job creation and enhance community development in Mount Carroll,” Brian Hollenback, GROWTH’s president/CEO, said in the release. “This project exemplifies our commitment to adaptive reuse and revitalization, ensuring that Shimer Square remains a vibrant and thriving community hub for generations to come.”

Mount Carroll Mayor Carl Bates called the groundbreaking “a remarkable achievement for our community. We are grateful for GROWTH’s continued commitment to revitalize Shimer Square and excited to see it evolve into a vibrant hub that honors our heritage while paving the way for a prosperous future.”

A Request for Proposal for an operator for the center was published in early May, and GROWTH is currently in discussions with a potential operator to manage the facility.

For more information about Shimer Square or GROWTH’s other initiatives, visit https://www.shimersquare.com/

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