The Phoenix: A fitting name for the building... and Beloit -
Up goes the cupola
We were able to catch the cupola being raised and set upon the new Phoenix building downtown. It was very cool. This is significant for Beloit and downtown Beloit specifically. It’s yet another step in the right direction of the ongoing revitalization here in town.
The Phoenix building development is a great story that is still unfolding. We’re anxious to see how this progresses. It will be great to have more residential right downtown. It will be great to have additional retail downtown etc. etc. We wish them blazing success as the rising tide of our downtown Beloit lifts all boats.
So much taking place right now
What this brings to mind for me however is that as important as this is, there has been a continual flow of both minor and major developments in and around our downtown and community as a whole. In fact at the very time the above was happening…
- First National Bank, across the street and half a block down FNB is expanding and joining two of their downtown buildings. We’re excited to see what they have planned. Our understanding is that it’ll be done in time for BIFF (Beloit International Film Festival) as BIFF hopes to be able to use the space for the Filmmaker Hospitality room as it’ll provide such a great vantage point to view and experience downtown while BIFF is happening for our out-of-town filmmaker guests. This renovation also should be a great addition to our downtown. FNB has been very good to our community.
- School District Beloit, is expanding and renovating no less than NINE school buildings, two of which are just up the street on West Grand Ave., This also includes a new pool for the high school which also serves all the community’s middle schools for life safety swim instruction and more. A new “ele-middle” school will be built as well. This all part of the $70 million 2012 school referendum the Beloit community passed on a first ballot. The Beloit community demonstrated that they were tired of years of band-aids, tweaking at the edges, and showed the courage for big change in the face of hard choices. This will be a game changer in many ways for the community and our children.
- The Castle, two blocks over and up the hill towards the college this too is in active redevelopment as a new community arts and performance center. Have you ever been inside? It’s a great space for this and a great new use for this building. As is happens this too is planned to be complete and opened in time to serve as a couple venues for BIFF also. A great example of adaptive reuse of one of Beloit’s wonderful historic structures benefiting the entire community.
- The former Beloit Inn (new name to be released soon), one block away this is also in active redevelopment. This in conjunction with the redevelopment of Merrill and Houston’s restaurant just last year. The overhead crane prominently placed at the entrance is perhaps a not too subtle hint to the theme and a clear tie-in to Beloit’s heavy industrial history.
- Power Plant & College, down to the corner and up Pleasant Street a few blocks. One of the few remaining B.O.B.’s (big ol’ buildings) around town. The fact that this retired facility is going to find an adaptive reuse by the college for a mixed-use student center, athletic and meeting space etc. is nothing short of brilliant. The architectural renderings are very cool. I can only image how amazing the view-scape from this building overlooking the ever improving riverfront will be.
- Iron Works Building Redevelopment and adaptive reuse, just a couple blocks away and across the river. The plans for the former Beloit Corp Iron Works building also are really exciting. Don’t recall what all has been publicly announced so will leave it at… wow. This will be very cool and great for our emerging downtown also.
- New downtown merchants: Type A Images and Northwoods Premium, these along with Beloit Bicycle, Rivals at the beginning of the year and the recent announcement of the expansion by the Cheese People. Don’t recall what the vacancy rate is for downtown but I do know it is very low.
Just the Bricks-n-Mortar
To some extent these are simply the more tangible evidence of even broader shifts in the community. It’s a bit trickier to photograph organizations, programs, meetings and decisions by community organizations and private business. A run down of what these groups both civic and private are doing would make for an interesting post I think also but that would be for another day.
I would say though that they’re no less real, just perhaps a little harder to photograph.
What I’ve been thinking
When we hit town the renewal of Beloit was already well under way. Beloit 2020, the Hendricks family, and a cast of many more perhaps not as visible individuals and groups had invested a LOT of energy working to get this flywheel called Beloit moving in another direction. The first thing we witnessed ourselves was the removal of the parking deck covering up the river between Grand and Broad.
And like a flywheel, as difficult as it was to get moving it seems to have been picking up speed over time. Slowly, yes but decidedly yes.
The parking deck, just like the Phoenix Building was, alone and by itself a huge deal and a step forward for the community. As big as this was it turned out to be simply the latest of many big deals that proceeded it and, as it turns out many more that have followed.
Let’s have some fun with this
So, if we bookended the removal of the parking deck on one end of the time line and the development of the Phoenix building as the other, not counting the items I already mentioned above how many events or things have happened in Beloit that you can name have happened?
I’m sure I could easily come up with over twenty without even trying hard.
So, here’s the deal. 🙂
Whoever identifies the most, individual items of improvement to the Beloit community between these two bookends, we’ll buy you lunch for two at your choice of downtown Beloit eatery.
We’ll post this on Facebook here where you can reply with as many things as you can recall. Things that have had a positive impact on the downtown, the riverfront, Beloit in general and/or community life for we residents.
Contest ends one week from today Fri. Sep. 6th. 5:00 pm
Simply be first to name something to claim it and have the most items identified. For example:
- Removing the awful parking deck covering the river
- Tearing down the years long abandoned Wagner building and putting up the Phoenix building
Y’know… like that.
If someone else already claims the event, you’re too late. If others have missed something you feel was significant, add it to your list. Finally, you can come back and add more things to your list if you forget the first time. No biting, no gouging, no hitting below the belt, break clean.
We, Ana-n-I will be the final judges. Bribes are encouraged as we’re originally from Chicago.
So have at it. Lunch for two on us!
Scroll Down To See The Leader Board
THE PHOENIX LEADER BOARD
|1||Kathleen Storm||1. State street sidewalks and planters
2. The Gantry!
3. Removing tin siding from LaCasa Grande revealing the amazing "ghost sign".
4 New facade to old Woolworth & Bushel & Peck's!
5. 418-422 Pleasant St. building, across from Vision Building
6. New Bagels & More facade!
7. Current Attic Quilts location next to Bagels & More!
8. New First Class Cosmetology School (old Overflowing Cup location) on State!
9. Former Paddle & Trail, now Beloit Bikes!
10. The old Thorsen's Shell at Fourth & Lawrence
11. Domenico's redesign and expansion
12. New Loft Apartments! (various locations)
|2||Heather Haynes||1. New Transit Building on Shireland
2. New Hendricks Bridge
3. New Vintage Horace White Park Lighting
4. Overhaul of the Eclipse Center
5. Expansion of Farmers' Market
6. Rock River riverbank rehabilitation (from Beloit Dam down to Shirland.
7. Henricks Center for the Arts
8. Turtle Creek Park renovations
9. Addition of Bike paths (multiple locations)
10. Park renovations at Merrill & 5th sponsored by Frito Lay employees
11. Riverside Park renovations (We'll give you this but as this has spanned many years and many individual phases we'll allow individual mentions of each of those piece parts)
|3||Daniel Luebke||1. Ace Hardware vacates Riverside Park location allowing expansion of park down to Portland
2. New Ace Hardware downtown on Broad Street.
3. New northern entrance to Riverside Park w/ signage and landscaping.
4. Bike path & greenspace on west riverbank north of Portland Ave. Bridge.
5. John Rose Kayak Launch
6. Intersection of Pleasant & White - Removal of gas station and addition of new, landscaped, attractive Beloit College signage
7. New, landscaped midlawn pavillion at Riverside Park
8. Distinctive brick pavers on State Street, downtown
9. River-facing murals behind old Beloit Corp building
10. Extension of Mill Street at waterbend area
|4||Daryl Arndt||1. The new Kerry headquarters
2. Gateway Business Park and businesses moving in
3. Redeveloped Fairbanks building(s) on Park
A quick note on great communities
So, we just spent last weekend out of town attending a tech conference in one of our most favorite communities. While away we also spent time in one of our other most favorite communities, Grand Rapids, Michigan and Kalamazoo, Michigan.
You know what? Both these communities have problems… BIG problems. Frankly, in many regards much more severe problems than anything we’re experiencing here in Beloit. We’ve friends in both communities and we talk extensively about neighborhood and community life.
Know what else? I’d move to either of these two communities in a heart beat if circumstances were different or I was in a different time in my life. These are GREAT communities. Love them. There is much in these two communities that I wish we could adopt here or more closely emulate. Beloit is though a great place too. To a great extent, I believe it, like many things is what you make of it.
So here’s the thing. In my opinion. A great community is not one without issues. I’m not sure if such communities exist. And I suppose even if they did I suspect they’d be a little too milk toast, Stepford wives, disconnected, suburbia for me. Great communities are those fully aware of their issues and are brave enough and confident enough and patient enough to work to make some things happen. This even when the outcome is not perfect or unanimous or without set backs. Forward movement is the objective. It is amazing for me to see what Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo have accomplished. I think Beloit is fully in league with the best and most progressive of these sorts of communities.
Pardon the soap box. 🙂 Had a great time in GR and K. Glad to be home too.
So, how about it?
Go to the VB Facebook page. What improvements have taken place in Beloit in your estimation?