ROCHELLE — Rochelle City Council approved moving forward with the application of a shovel-ready grant under the state’s Rebuild Illinois program Monday night that could assist in demolition costs of the Hickory Grove Banquet Center if awarded.
The total requested grant is $356,750 to be used for the demolition and site preparation for the existing Hickory Grove Banquet Center. Any additional funds, up to $365,750 will be committed by the City of Rochelle through its General Fund (franchise dollars from transmission sale to ComEd) and landfill funds. No general sales tax or property tax dollars are allocated to this project.
“Currently, DCEO has not indicated when they will be making the grant awards, but the team at Willett Hoffman think it could be this fall,” Rochelle City Manager Jeff Fiegenschuh said. “If that’s the case the project will be bid out in early 2021.”
Along with the grant application being submitted, letters of support from Representative Tom Demmer, the Rochelle Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Rochelle Economic Development Cooperation and the Blackhawk Waterways Convention and Visitors Bureau will be submitted to the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
In Demmer’s letter he said, “The City of Rochelle has been an excellent steward of funds they’ve received and they continue to be a “city with it’s vision on the horizon, focusing on business growth and business retention.” Rochelle has remained proactive in their plans and committed to ensuring that development and infrastructure remain the backbone of this rural community.”
Executive Director of Blackhawk Waterways Diane Bausman mirrored Demmer’s thoughts.
“As the regional destination marketing organization, we welcome facilities that have the ability to attract visitors and generate an economic benefit via increased sales tax dollars for the area,” Bausman wrote in her letter of support. “The redevelopment of the former Hickory Grove Center into a multi-use facility would benefit not only the city of Rochelle but our entire region. It would provide much needed space for events, banquets and receptions and the addition of another restaurant in Rochelle expands the choices offered to locals and visitors when dining out.”
The state has allocated $13 million in Rebuild Illinois funds to the competitive Shovel Ready Sites (RISRS) component. A grant ceiling of $2 million per project has been established. Grants for less than $250,000 will not be awarded. The Governor’s Five-Year Economic Development Plan recognizes there are sites across Illinois with great economic development potential that require additional investment in order to become “shovel-ready.”
Redevelopment in infill locations can use vacant buildings, parking lots, empty schools, or other underused sites for new amenities and businesses near existing neighborhoods. The purpose is to provide funding for site preparation for underutilized properties that can transform into economic development opportunities across Illinois, according to the DCEO website.
Council voted 7-0 in favor of moving forward with the application process.