GROWTH’s Shimer College project takes two steps forward

Shimer College
Progress continues on the redevelopment of Shimer College in Mount Carroll, Illinois. Economic Growth Corporation (GROWTH), based in Rock Island, has accepted bids for Phase 1 of the $60 million multi-phase project. CREDIT GROWTH

The redevelopment of the old Shimer College in Mount Carroll, Illinois, by Rock Island-based Economic Growth Corporation (GROWTH) recently moved from the drawing board to early development.

On Wednesday, Oct. 5, GROWTH announced it would seek requests for proposals (RFP) for the first phase of the multi-phase $60 million project. A day later, U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Moline, announced the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had awarded $800,000 for the Shimer Square Job and Daycare Creation Project. The grant for that portion of the Shimer project was from the Community Economic Development Program.

Ms. Bustos is a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee and helped secure the funds. She said in her office’s Oct. 6 news release: “The Shimer Square redevelopment project in Mount Carroll is a fantastic example of local, state and federal government coming together with businesses to revitalize a community and preserve its history. I’m so glad to announce that this project will be receiving $800,000 in federal funding for their daycare creation project. I look forward to seeing the exciting transformation underway.” 

In May, GROWTH President and CEO Brian Hollenback and Mount Carroll Mayor Carl Bates joined the Carroll County community in celebrating the Shimer Square campus redevelopment and the launch of construction at the 203 E. Seminary St. site.

The project will encompass the footprint of the historic former Shimer College. And with Shimer Square, GROWTH’s stabilization and preservation efforts will transform the campus into housing, entertainment, dining, fitness, business incubation, and artist and community space, all rolled up into one sustainable, diverse, inclusive, equitable historical community asset built for the future, the agency said.

The 14-acre campus boasts 17 buildings, former residential halls and instructional buildings solidly constructed between the time from 1903 to 1975. The redevelopment will create 88 units of housing and redevelop five of the buildings. The former Shimer College closed its Mt. Carroll campus in 1979. 

The RFPs sought earlier this month for Phase 1 work included: masonry restoration to the campus gate; general renovations and parking for the building commonly known as the Sawyer House; asbestos removal and interior building demolition for the buildings commonly known as Bennett and Hathaway Halls; and parking excavation and placement of base material. 

After the bidding process, the winning proposal will be announced at 8 a.m., Friday, Nov. 4, at GROWTH’s office at 100 19th Street, Suite 109, Rock Island. GROWTH said it would select the winning proposal based on qualifications and past work experiences. 

Funding for the first phase of the Shimer redevelopment also came from Rebuild Illinois’ Regional Economic Development Grant Program. GROWTH was one of 11 non-profits awarded Rebuild Illinois funds throughout the state of Illinois, the agency said in a news release. Its $1.5 million award will be leveraged with an additional $33 million in these initial redevelopment efforts within the 14-acre Shimer Square  campus. 

Future phases include supporting and nurturing small businesses through Shimer Square’s entrepreneur and startup incubators while developing the state’s workforce through construction related housing and business activity and making  future investments to catalyze growth.  

Fearing the campus would dissolve as a whole and the negative economic impact from the campus shuttering in 1979, a group of citizens joined efforts to purchase the campus and find a new purpose for it. While successful at keeping the campus intact, after many redevelopment attempts, the campus was abandoned.

In 2018, Mt. Carroll began its search for a community-minded partner to revitalize, restore and bring it back to life. By invitation, GROWTH conducted a site visit, met with community stakeholders, and then received unanimous approval by its own board of directors to acquire and create a comprehensive redevelopment plan. 

GROWTH took title to the property in December 2018.

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