MOROCCO — A partnership between the Town of Morocco and the Newton County Economic Development Commission (NCEDC) could result in new businesses downtown as well as a new residential development on the west side.
That’s the goal as NCEDC presented a $185,000 check to the town council at its monthly meeting on Jan. 7.
Of that total, $85,000 is for the purchase of the Morocco Town Hall building, as well as the “shell building” at 206 E. State Street and three additional lots in the same area of E. State Street.
NCEDC Director Tim Myers said this purchase has been in the works for a while and he is excited that the deal was recently finalized.
Myers plans on renovating the Town Hall and creating the Newton County Business Center and Shared Office Space.
“One of our priorities as an economic development commission is to attract new businesses for Newton County,” said Myers. “This renovation will create six offices that can be leased out with a shared conference room and a modern break area.”
The front lobby area will be the shared space that will be accessible 24/7 with a key card and will feature high-speed internet. That space will become available with a monthly fee to get use of the key card.
“There are a lot of people in Newton County who work from home but don’t have high-speed internet,” said Myers. “This will be a nice modern space that we can lease to those county residents as well as trying to attract businesses from other places.”
NCEDC will also work on trying to attract new business to the 206 E. State Street location as well as the three open lots.
“In the next couple of years the whole downtown landscape could be completely different,” added Myers.
NCEDC will take over control of the Town Hall Feb. 3 of this year. After that Town Hall operations will run temporarily out of the “Hickman Building” at 208 E. State Street.
“Our plans are to take that money and build a future town hall or possibly add on to the Hickman Building to make that a more permanent Town Hall,” said Morocco Town Council President Bob Gonczy. “I think good things are on the move for Morocco. “This is all a part of our downtown plan that we started years ago with the renovation of the buildings at 206 and 208 E. State Street. Now it is time to partner with Tim and Newton County Economic Development to market these areas so that they can be developed quickly.”
The remaining $100,000 from the $185,000 check is a loan from NCEDC to the Town of Morocco to purchase six acres on the west side of town and turn them into seven residential lots that already have water and sewer access.
“This will provide a good opportunity for people looking to move here from Illinois or from Lake County,” said Myers. “We will also help market this property.”
Morocco will pay back the loan to NCEDC as the residential lots are sold off.
“This can be a model on how we can take this to other communities and get development started in the county,” added Myers.
Myers told the Newton County Enterprise that after Feb. 3 renovations at Town Hall would start immediately as will the marketing of the locations.
“I want to thank Tim for all of his effort in this,” said Morocco Town Council member Duke Gagnon. “I think this is huge for the town.”