GROWTH kicks off long-awaited Shimer College reboot

Aerial view of Shimer College campus, GROWTH
Work on the old Shimer College and campus soon will begin transforming into a $60 million-plus redevelopment by Economic Growth Corporation. CREDIT ECONOMIC GROWTH CORPORATION

Rock Island-based Economic Growth Corporation (GROWTH) is inviting people across the region to celebrate the startup of its Shimer Square redevelopment project in Mount Carroll, Illinois.

GROWTH President and CEO Brian Hollenback and Mount Carroll Mayor Carl Bates will update the community on the project’s progress and mark Shimmer Square’s fall 2022 official start of construction during a Mayfest event at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 28. 

Residents, local and state elected officials, as well as business, civic and neighborhood leaders are asked to join area residents in celebrating the more than $60 million multi-phase project, GROWTH said in a news release.

The project will encompass the footprint of the former historic Shimer College. The plan is to 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 14-acre campus boasts 17 buildings, former residential halls and instructional buildings solidly constructed between the time from 1903 and 1975. The redevelopment that begins this year will create 88 units of housing and redevelop five of the 17 total buildings.

“This celebration acknowledges a culmination of many individuals’ tireless efforts over the last three years. Shimer Square’s development offers a fitting example of what a true community-based developer can do with local support,” Mr. Hollenback said in the release. “This first phase of Shimer Square’s redevelopment will re-energize the heart of this beloved campus. We appreciate the community’s continued support and are truly privileged to bring this historic campus back to life, one phase at a time.”

The former Shimer College closed its Mt. Carroll campus in 1979. Fearing the campus would dissolve as a whole and the negative economic impact, 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 with the commitment to bring the Mayfest celebration back to the former college’s campus, Mr. Hollenback said.

“It only makes sense that three years later, after one intervening pandemic, we come back to Mayfest to update the community on our good news, and to assure the same community that GROWTH is working hard behind the scenes to advance the shared plans that are starting to be realized for this historic campus,” he said.

GROWTH staff will be on hand at Mayfest to discuss the redevelopment efforts. For more information, visit and

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