Only Building Site in Wisconsin Ever Constructed for Segregated Company Housing Is Preserved; Now Offers Affordable Housing Option During Troubled Economic Times
MADISON, WI – Gorman & Company, a national affordable housing development firm based in Madison, Wis, announced today that the historic preservation and redevelopment of Fairbanks Flats Rowhomes in Beloit, Wis, is near completion. Leasing of the affordable homes has begun, which were originally constructed as a segregated company-housing project in 1917.
Listed on both the National Register of Historical Places and the Wisconsin State Register, the original four buildings at Fairbanks Flats were built by Fairbanks Morse, an engine manufacturer and Beloit’s largest employer at the time. Fairbanks Morse recruited African-Americans from the South to replace the white labor force that had left to serve in World War I.
The number of African-Americans working at Fairbanks, many coming from Pontotoc, Miss, grew from six in 1915 to 250 in 1917. A handful of African-American families had lived in Beloit since the mid-1800s, but the population grew immensely with Fairbanks Flats serving as a gateway to the city, “an Ellis Island,” as one past resident called it. Within a decade, nearly 1,000 African-Americans called Beloit home.
Gorman & Company, maintaining the look and feel of the historic design, has transformed the original 24 units into 16 rent-to-own, affordable townhouses for low-to-moderate income families and people with disabilities. The two- and three-bedroom homes range in size from 1,288 to 1,787 square feet.
“This project represents historic significance for African-Americans and the city of Beloit as it was the genesis of the city’s African-American community and influenced future housing and settlement patterns,” said Gary Gorman, president of Gorman & Company. “The can-do attitude and resilient spirit of the city, community supporters, the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA), our dedicated employees and project partners have shown that history can be preserved and an affordable housing option can be made available during these difficult economic times.”
WHEDA provided nearly $2 million in affordable housing tax credits to the project. Gorman & Company, utilizing the Emerging Business Enterprise Program, employed 33% minority workers on the project. The city of Beloit donated the property and contributed a $150,000 interest-free loan to help finance the project.
Residents in Fairbanks Flats will have an opportunity to purchase their units in 15 years. This rent-to-own feature provides an opportunity for residents to benefit from financial tools designed into the program and to own a piece of Beloit’s history. At the end of 15 years, the property will be conveyed to a nonprofit organization that will sell the units at a discounted price equal to a low outstanding loan balance plus the costs to administer the program.
Project partners in Fairbank Flats include Alliant Capital, which provided the low income housing tax credit investment, Bank of America, which provided the historic tax credit investment, and US Bank which provided construction and permanent project lending.
Gorman & Company, Inc., headquartered in Madison, Wis, was created in 1984 with a mission to create high-quality housing opportunities. Through its use of public and private partnerships, Gorman & Company specializes in the renovation of historic buildings and renaissance of traditional urban neighborhoods, and is renowned for its quality craftsmanship, dependability and sensitivity to building communities. For more information or to view Gorman and Company’s portfolio, visit www.GormanUSA.net.
NOTE TO EDITOR: One of only three surviving original Fairbanks Flats residents, Lula Belle Brown, 94 years old, is available to interview.