© 2022 WVIK
Listen at 90.3 FM and 105.7 FM in the Quad Cities, 95.9 FM in Dubuque, or on the WVIK app!
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

New Life for a Former College Campus in N.W. Ill.

Economic Growth Corporation
Metcalf Hall at the former Shimer College in Mt. Carroll, Ill.

Big plans are in the works for a former college in northwestern Illinois. The re-development of the historic Shimer College campus in Mount Carroll will cost about 60 million dollars. 


Founded in 1852, Shimer College closed its campus in Mt. Carroll in the 1970's, and moved to the Chicago area. Soon afterwards it became known as the Campbell Center for Historic Preservation Studies, but that too closed in 2017.

After sitting vacant for about a year, the 14 acre campus was purchased by the Economic Growth Corporation, a non-profit based in Rock Island. President and CEO Brian Hollenback says their first step was to bring back Mayfest on Memorial Day weekend last year, and ask local residents to choose the name. 

"May 2018 was the first year after 37 years that Mayfest was not held at the campus. So Memorial Day weekend 2019 last year we brought Mayfest back to the campus. We did ballots and we took polls and we had the entire community vote. We ran it through the paper, local stakeholders knocked on doors made sure to engage the maximum number of votes we could get."  

Credit Economic Growth Corporation
pictures from Mayfest

And when all the ballots were counted, it was a tie that had to be settled by the mayor who flipped a coin and the winner was "Shimer Square."  

Hollenback says the plan was to take title to the campus, bring back Mayfest, then get some outside help.

"And then the third step is working with the National Trust, the state historic office, and last week we received the approval for Part Two which will allow us to apply for state historic tax credits. We do have a pending request with the Illinois Housing Development Authority for an allocation in excess of three million dollars of state donation tax credits for the first phase that we anticipate closing on in August."

Credit Economic Growth Corporation
a map of the Shimer campus in Mt. Carroll, Illinois

He says their 60 million dollar re-development plan, will take 5 to 7 years to implement, with help from local residents. 

"Later this year we will be hosting a key stakeholders open forum to engage the community in the various buildings and what we believe will be their adaptive re-use. We anticipate a lot of activity this year shortly after bringing Mayfest back again for the second year."

Just about 15 miles from Mount Carroll is the federal prison in Thomson, Illinois - and new housing planned for Shimer Square could serve current and former prison employees. The lack of housing in the area has been a real problem for the prison. 

Since 2008, Economic Growth Corporation has raised nearly 300 million dollars, to open a variety of apartments and single family homes in northwestern Illinois, in Sterling, Galena, and Fulton.