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Innovation Center proposed on Econofoods’ property

April 29, 2016

Michelle Ravel / The Courier - The old Econofoods property has potential for bringing new connections to Monmouth College and the community.

Four Monmouth College professors put forward a proposal to the college and to the Monmouth Park District for an “innovation center,” a space for students to experiment their business ideas. If approved, this center will replace the Econofoods building, which is currently empty.

In the proposal, this center will include a coffee shop, pizza restaurant, farmer’s market, “flexible kitchen” for co-curricular cooking activities, cooking classes, student fundraising events, ethnic food preparation as well as many other ideas.

According to Dan Nolan, a Park District Commissioner, because the building has been vacant for many years and there is no way to save the building or use it for any other purposes, the commission has decided to tear it down. The demolition phase of the Econofoods building is expected to finish by late May, 2016. Although the “Monmouth College Innovation Center” project has been proposed, the commission is “not sure what they would put on this space,” said Nolan.

Beside the project was proposed by professors, the commission was thinking about having a park here, with a berm along the edge at the corner of Broadway and North 11th Streets to create a safety separation for the park. “We need more green spaces and recreational spaces. They are being eaten up,” said Nolan. No budget has been set for the development of this space. “We want to carefully look at this so that we won’t regret the decision we make.” However, according to Nolan, if the commission decided to create a community park and to plant grass here, it would take a full year to finish.

While the Park District Commission is looking forward to creating more green space in the city, four Monmouth College professors proposed the innovation center project based on the NewBo City Market in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. According to Brad Sturgeon, a professor working on this proposal, this idea will provide Monmouth College students with “hands-on learning experience.” He also added that the concept of being an “entrepreneur is a concept that every student needs to understand and this innovation center will be a space for student to experiment their business ideas.”

This project is expected to build and strengthen the connection between the college, Monmouth community, the City of Monmouth and the Park District. However, the proposal has not been approved by either the college or the Monmouth Park District due to the lack of funding. “We will definitely work with the development office to make this happen,” said professor Sturgeon.

In addition to this idea, the professors are also dicussing two other proposals for an entrepreneurship minor at the college and a “maker space” for students to explore, experiment and involve in creative activities such as making jewelry or baking.

Nhung Vu
Contributing Writer

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