Wisconsin

Flats grand opening to be held

A project years in the making will be celebrated Saturday with the grand opening and ribbon-cutting of the historic Fairbanks Flats Rowhomes.

The Fairbanks Flats were built sometime between 1917 and 1920 when Fairbanks Morse recruited African-Americans from the South to replace the workers who had gone to serve in World War I. The City of Beloit acquired the dilapidated buildings in 1999, and they are on the National and Wisconsin Registers of Historic Places.

Madison-based Gorman & Company redeveloped the original 24 units into 16 rent-to-own, affordable townhouses for low- to moderate-income families and people with disabilities. The four original buildings, at 205 and 215 Birch Ave. and 206 and 216 Carpenter St. in Beloit., maintain the look and feel of the historic design and feature two- and three-bedroom homes ranging in size from 1,288 to 1,787 square feet, according to the company.

On Saturday beginning at 10 a.m., the public is invited to view the rowhomes and participate in the grand opening ceremony. Several speakers will be on hand, including Jim Caldwell, a Beloit native who grew up near the Flats and is now head coach of the Indianapolis Colts; Francis Vance, president of the Fairbanks Flats Revitalization Group; and Lulu Belle Brown, a former resident of the Fairbanks Flats.

Also at the grand opening, the Beloit Landmarks Commission will present a Preservation Award to Gorman & Company recognizing the company’s contribution to saving a historic landmark. The award is given out every year, often more than once, but this is the only company receiving the award this year, said Community Planner Drew Pennington.

The grand opening is part of the weekend’s Back to Beloit events. Vance said a lot of people have registered for the event, so the turnout should be good.

“Everyone is really looking forward to the celebration of the ribbon-cutting,” he said.

Earlier this month, the City of Beloit received notification that it won the 2009 Community Partnership Award presented by the International City/County Management Association. The award was given for the unique partnership between the city and community that led to the successful Fairbanks Flats restoration and redevelopment project.

After the grand opening, the Fairbanks Flats Revitalization Group will turn its focus to getting a monument placed on the site across from the Fairbanks Flats. An artist will be commissioned to design the monument. The group is working with the city to pick the site and start fundraising for the monument, Vance said.