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Think outside the box

Residents hear ideas for use of gifted downtown building

Dr. Hasmukh Shah (from left) talks with Tampico residents Al Wildman and Gary Pearson about repurposing his downtown clinic building that he recently donated to the Village of Tampico.
Dr. Hasmukh Shah (from left) talks with Tampico residents Al Wildman and Gary Pearson about repurposing his downtown clinic building that he recently donated to the Village of Tampico.

TAMPICO – Dr. Hasmukh Shah turned 70 on Wednesday, but instead of receiving gifts, the longtime physician is doing the giving.

Shah donated a downtown building he built and practiced in for 30 years to the village, and about 20 residents attended a public forum to find a way to utilize it.

The one-story, 2,100-square-foot building at 123 S. Main St., which also is wheelchair accessible, most recently housed CGH’s Tampico Clinic. The Sterling hospital closed it in the second week of June, citing water damage, but whatever damage had been done was minimal and quickly fixed, Mayor Kristine Hill said.

Whiteside County Economic Development Director Gary Camarano, who works with Hill on the County Enterprise Zone, invited Norman Walzer, Northern Illinois University Center for Governmental Studies senior research scholar, to offer advice to the community.

Walzer recommended that the village first determine what the village needs.

“The question I’d like to ask is, ‘How can you make Tampico better?’” Walzer said. “How can you make it a step better so that people want to live here and enjoy these kinds of things, and how do you then figure out what do you want to do with Tampico? Then let’s go back and say, ‘We got this real neat building that we can do something with.’”

As the baby boomer generation ages, it will become the only demographic to grow in the village, Walzer said, and having a new place to attract that generation would be an idea.

“As we look ahead the next 15-20 years, we want to pay attention to this group,” Walzer said. “What are they going to need? How are we going to serve their needs? They’re going to be our market.”

Anita Stickel, 82, would like to see the building become a sort of social meeting place or a community center.

“Everybody does not have a home computer, but they might want to work on it for an hour or two,” she said. “I think of that type of stuff, but I don’t think anything like a big business.”

Walzer provided examples of community supported enterprise projects in England, Vermont and as close as Toulon in Stark County that are limited liability companies, cooperatives, nonprofit organizations.

Community supported enterprises are done through monetary contributions from community members in an effort to socially motivate the preservation of quality of life, help promote locally made products, as long as typical small business issues and difficulties are addressed.

Shah, who is leaving for a 6-month mission trip to India in 2 weeks, brought up that the southeast corner of Whiteside County has a significant Amish population.

“If the Amish wanted to sell furniture, or other things, they can have something right in downtown,” he said.

Gary Pearson, 59, a sixth-generation resident, was a patient of Shah’s and was excited to learn he was giving back to the community in such a way. Like Shah, he also thought the Amish can bring forward great ideas.

“There were a lot of good ideas that came up,” Pearson said. “There’s a grocery store we could use, a deli, multiuse space. We have a lot of potential. There are so many things we can do.”

Shah built the one-story structure in 1984 after a fire created its space. He later became affiliated with CGH and retired in 2014. Internal medicine nurse practitioner Toni Ikens most recently saw patients at the clinic, which was open only 4 hours a week, from 8 a.m. to noon on Wednesdays.

Shah and CGH have made various alterations and renovations to the inside in recent years. Its heating and air conditioning units are less than 5 years old.

Another forum to solicit more ideas for the building will be scheduled at a later date.

“In the broader picture, this isn’t about just one building, it’s about opportunities we can embrace for the entire community,” Hill said. “We’ve been blessed with a gift. We need to use it wisely and we need to work together and make a positive result out of this.”

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