Hanover Park will foot the bill on a more than $700,000 construction project for a facility run by two community colleges.
The village, Elgin Community College and Harper College have reached a deal on the terms of a lease for a 10,900-square-foot piece of the Hanover Square strip mall on Barrington Road. Renovation of the vacant, T-shaped space will pave the way for the Education and Work Center, a facility offering free adult general education classes and job counseling.
The village's investment -- funded by a tax increment financing district -- was vital to getting the project off the ground, officials say.
In a TIF district, property tax payments to local taxing bodies such as school and park districts are frozen for up to 23 years. The village funnels any additional property tax revenues within the district into a special fund that can be used to help pay for improvements to the area.
Hanover Park will use TIF dollars to build five classrooms, offices and an area where Business and Career Services Inc. will cater to jobseekers under Illinois workNet.
The two community colleges and the village have been in talks for nearly two years to bring the facility to the aging shopping center. Harper and ECC had to work through the logistics of different procedures for classes and secure the approval of the Illinois Community College Board. Both will kick in $250,000 annually for three years, including the $120,000 lease.
Harper College spokesman Phil Burdick credited the mayor and village planners for keeping the project alive when it could have "derailed at a lot of junctures."
"Hopefully, this will just be a great model going forward for bringing programs to communities in a way that just makes sense for all of these institutions," Burdick told the village board Thursday night.
As the village searches for a buyer for Hanover Square, the deal has sparked new interest in vacant storefronts. A recreation business that would host swimming classes for kids has expressed interest in the mall, officials said Thursday.
Since buying Hanover Square for $2.8 million in 2011, the village has poured money into the mall's roof, utilities and demolition of an old restaurant.
"We don't necessarily want to be in the shopping center business, but we had to do something because it was in such dire straits," Mayor Rodney Craig said.
The village will now complete the architectural plans for the ECC and Harper branch. Construction could take two months -- an aggressive timeline, officials acknowledged.
The schools hope to launch classes in the fall. The village board is expected to vote on the three-year lease and the final construction costs March 20.
Officials hope the center will help solve disproportionate job growth in the area than the rest of the suburbs.
"I know its been a roller-coaster ride, but I couldn't be more excited about the opportunity for the people of Hanover Park," Craig said.