Group looks to restore Mayfest to Campbell Center

The Campbell Center, previously known as Shimer College, is a 14-building, 14-acre property on the southern edge of Mount Carroll.
The Campbell Center, previously known as Shimer College, is a 14-building, 14-acre property on the southern edge of Mount Carroll.

MOUNT CARROLL – The city’s historic Mayfest is being eyed for a return this spring to the Campbell Center grounds, as part of a Quad-Cities based development group’s plans for the former Shimer College campus.

Rock Island Economic Growth Corp. President and CEO Brian Hollenback said by phone Friday that the group’s first focus was bringing Mayfest back to the campus.

“We’re also working on stabilization of the Sawyer House, the former (college) president’s home,” Hollenback said.

Deeds were filed Dec. 31 at the Carroll County Courthouse transferring ownership of the campus and all buildings from the Campbell Center Board and Savanna-Thomson State Bank to the corporation, according to a Jan. 9 story in the Carroll County Mirror Democrat.

The corporation plans to use the Sawyer House as an office, as well as a place for administrators and contractors to stay while working on the first phase of a development project at the campus, according to the Mirror-Democrat.

John Pokropinski, a member of the Mount Carroll Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, posted a letter about working at the Campbell Center for contractors on the city of Mount Carroll website about the first phase.

“One of their initial projects will be to convert the old dorm on the Campbell Center to an apartment complex. This work should begin by spring 2019,” Pokropinski wrote.

The campus has been seeking an investor since the collapse of a late 2015 deal between the Campbell Center Board and Nathaniel Hsieh, a Chicago immigration attorney.

Hsieh’s plans to open a college prep school at the former Mount Carroll K-12 school building at 300 S. Main St., never materialized. The students would have stayed in renovated dorms at the Shimer campus. The site needed between $30 and $40 million in work to be brought up to code, and Chinese investors were supposed to pay that money.

John Cox, an attorney working for free with the Campbell Center Board, told the Prairie Advocate in November that there was a letter of intent, but the school never happened.

The board continued to try to find a developer for the campus, which also housed the International Preservation Studies Center, a group offering programs in historic preservation of art and buildings.

The board split the corporation for the school into two, one for the school and one for the campus.

A lack of a developer left the center with increasing expenses, and the board decided in the fall of 2017 to sell the preservation school to Highland Community College in Freeport, and a partial payment made to the creditors of the school.

The board then dissolved the school corporation, but kept the campus corporation.