Construction is under way at the site at 310 Second Ave., north of Grandon Civic Center and east of the Big Red Church, in the heart of the downtown.
The foundations for six 12-by-16-foot free-standing “chalets” are being poured by students studying building trades at the Whiteside Area Career Center.
If the need arises, there is room for four more structures.
The goal of the incubator “is to attract small businesses, create more retail shopping options and bring people into downtown Sterling,” Main Street Executive Director Janna Groharing said in a news release.
The goal is to help new businesses succeed, so that they remain in the Sauk Valley long term and add to the region’s economic prosperity.
To aid the process, the new retailers will be given any advice, training or mentoring they might need from the Small Business Development Center at Sauk Valley Community College, and from Main Street, the Sauk Valley Area Chamber of Commerce and other community partners.
Business owners who are accepted into the program will lease the space for 8 months for $300 a month, utilities included, and will be required to be open certain hours, including during the Sterling Municipal Band’s Wednesday evening concerts at Grandon.
The lease will end after the December holiday season, when owners are expected to migrate to their own storefronts, so new businesses can take their place.
Those interested in being considered for the program have until 5 p.m. Dec. 31 to apply.
Applications will be reviewed early next year and vendors will be notified of their acceptance in February.
They will take possession of their incubator storefront at the beginning of April and will have a month to customize their spaces prior to the planned opening, which will be in early May, barring any unforeseen construction delays.
An independent jury will review the applications and select the vendors, with a diverse slate of offerings in mind.
The incubator is estimated to cost about $200,000. The City Council provided $50,000 in seed money for the initial materials needed, and Main Street is looking for investors to provide the rest.