2011 Great American Main Street Award Profile: Beloit, Wisconsin
Excerpted from National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main Street Story of the Week
By Andrea L. Dono
A stroll through downtown Beloit, Wisconsin, reveals a historic town brimming with flowers and a scenic river filled with kayakers. Recovering from a tough reputation and a weak business mix, this Main Street has been able to cut its 19 percent vacancy rate to 7 percent and contribute to a 192 percent boost in property values.
Twenty-three years ago, the Downtown Beloit Association (DBA) formed to reshape the town’s destiny. Unique pieces of industrial art and industrial buildings that now house mixed-use projects provide clues to a city that had to chart a new course when manufacturing jobs disappeared and malls lured businesses away. DBA set out to create a sustainable funding base through a business improvement district and to become a Wisconsin Main Street community. The district today is devoid of chains and filled with contributors to a strong local arts economy, which has been a strong catalyst in Beloit’s comeback.