Downtown Beloit Wisconsin
2011 Great American Main Street Award
Award Type: GAMSA
- Main street began: 1987
- Population: 37,110
- Net new jobs: 614
- Net new businesses: 206
- Building Rehabs: 340
- New buildings: 9
- Vacancy rate when Main Street started:19%
- Vacancy rate now: 7%
- Public investment: $20,554,740.89
- Private investment: $54,417,718.50
The City of Beloit’s beginnings are rooted in its downtown, originally settled by French fur trader Joseph Thibeau in 1824. It grew as a hub of industry along the Rock River and was the center of activity for Beloit. After an all too familiar story decline and neglect, Downtown Beloit has harnessed the passion of its citizens and with innovative, successful partnerships has generated great success in transforming area of neglect into exemplary examples that a passionate, common vision can achieve.
Downtown Beloit has traditionally been the center of activity as a primary destination for shopping, employment, services and a civic center for the community and experienced an all too familiar story of loss of a primary employer and shoppers headed to the mall. With the work of dedicated citizens and innovative partnerships, Beloit is now regarded as one of the strongest and most sophisticated Main Street programs in Wisconsin. In Beloit you can see this success in their restored riverfront, riverwalk bike paths along with restored buildings, their Vision Center and creative new development projects like the Beloit Inn which is divided as condos for partnered ownership.
In Their Own Words
Beloit has an urban edge with the wonderful accessibility of a small town. With a strong history of community involvement and partnership, Beloit continues to benefit from a commitment to passionate, common vision and action designed to celebrate and invigorate the city center. Art! With more than 20 public pieces in and around Beloit’s City Center, the influence of a strong arts community shines through. Forged in 1858 along the banks of the Rock River, Beloit Ironworks became the world’s largest manufacturer of paper-making machines and was later known as Beloit Corporation. Although Beloit Corporation has since closed, the original hardwood paper-making patterns, created by craftsman throughout its 140 year history, have been salvaged and turned into unique pieces of industrial art. Gallery ABBA, The Beloit Fine Arts Incubator, the Villager Gallery and Framing, the Beloit College International Performing Arts and Lecture Series, Local Theater, River’s Edge Foundry, a host of live music venues almost every night, and now, Beloit College’s Hendricks Center for the Arts...all animate and spark the artistic imagination in the city center. Community Initiated Development The Hotel Hilton, an example often cited by Donovan Rypkema, is now a successful mixed use facility with a Barnes & Noble Beloit College bookstore storefront and 12 upscale apartments above. The former Woolworth's building at 328 State Street (noted earlier). New Development Designed to complement existing businesses and structures, The Beloit Inn, a luxury boutique hotel, and Heritage View, 14 upscale loft condos with commercial storefronts grace the Rock River.
They are not done yet!
Q: What are Beloit's plans for the next five years?
- Façade Restoration and Upper Floor Housing Development - downtown rental housing units continue to be at or near 100% occupancy, demonstrating a need for additional units. Restoration projects that have stalled in the past due to lack of capital are prime candidates for dramatic transformation and to show momentum of investment confidence. Strong funding mechanisms are now in place to encourage housing build out and façade restorations in the district.
- Targeted Redevelopment - now that downtown’s amenity base has grown, there’s an opportunity to redevelop some key properties to capitalize on market density and preserve building stock: retail, residential, and entertainment uses in particular should be targeted. Projects such as the Riverwalk, the Ironworks redevelopment and mural, Heritage View condos, Beloit Inn and riverside dining at Café Belwah, and the new canoe/kayak launch illustrate a momentum already in place to move more people and activity to the district.
- Strengthening Connections with Beloit College - which offers an opportunity for greater variety of informal gathering places in downtown that would in turn help attract students and staff alike to come off campus.
- Arts Community - Beloit’s arts initiative should continue to grow, focusing on enhancing Beloit’s “arts infrastructure” to develop an environment conducive for artists to create, exhibit, or perform.
- Food-related downtown projects -food production and processing is a key component of Beloit’s economic base. Downtown offers a venue for celebrating this part of Beloit’s heritage and economy. Specific opportunities include the continued expansion of the farmers market, regional food restaurants and food related retail to complement the new local foods grocery.