The community of Beloit continues to invest in its downtown.
It seems that for the few years we’ve been in town every few months there is something significant taking place in the ongoing revitalization of Beloit’s downtown. Improved riverfront (taking up parking deck and adding a canoe/kayak launch & too many additional things to mention), an expanding farmer’s market that is among the very best in state, additional live music venues (Suds), unveiling of historic downtown facades (Bagels & More), adaptive reuse of historic structures (Hendricks Arts Center in the old Post Office > Library… to name just one of several), new transit center, new merchants moving in, (Paddle & Trail being the latest), downtown festivals gaining national attention (BIFF). There a several more I could list but you get the point.
The transformation of Beloit’s downtown is dramatic and ongoing.
Big downtown Beloit improvement du jour?
As the locals know… the new downtown road reconstruction… including pavers, pavilion and, well a host of other improvements too.
Like most I’ve spoken with this will be a significant improvement to our downtown. And while the reconstruction will be relatively quick for a project of this scale the downtown merchants will likely take a temporary hit. As residents of Beloits historic district and the nearest neighbors to downtown our neighborhood and downtown are especially co-dependent. I would propose that we benefit more directly than many by having a vital and thriving downtown. Conversely, I’d add that downtown benefits by having a vital and thriving residential historic district near by.
I look forward to seeing you downtown, as per usual.
Oh, the pic at the top of the page?
There’s been some comment and curiosity about the road crew having rediscovered the light rail railroad ties burried beneath the pavement. The “before” pic is from the cover of the booklet handed out at the opening of the new transit building. Cool huh?
And I’d no more “improve” it with a “high efficiency” fireplace conversion kit then I would trade in a little red, two-seater convertible for taking the city bus or go out for dinner and pass on the Prime Rib followed by New York Cheesecake for microbiotic legumes and tofu.
We don’t use our fireplace often. It’s for times like today when we want to relax, treat ourselves a little and cozy up to our wood burning fireplace. It’s primary purpose is not to heat the house. We have a furnace in the basement for that. We’ve added insulation in the attic, put up storm windows and caulked, our thermostat is on a timer. We’ve done many of the normal things to economize and maximize home energy efficiency.
When we were shopping homes to buy and found our current home had a beautiful fireplace it was the aesthetic, intangibles and character that it added which made the home considerably more attractive (and likely a bit more expensive) to us than a home without a natural wood-burning fireplace. It’s a fine old home with character, not a log cabin dependent on the fireplace for home heating.
Now every old house homeowner has an in-law, coworker or someone in their life that simply does not understand. They think you’re crazy and old houses incomprehensible. And there are even old house homeowners who themselves look at a natural wood burning fireplace and begin to salivate at the opportunity to “improve” it by retrofitting a “high-efficiency” fireplace insert. How much smarter they are. How much more economical their solution is. Just think of all the money they’ll save.
We all have different area of interest and opinion be it in sports, film, local politics, education, religion, the arts… You look around and are puzzled that folks are missing the point. They clearly don’t get it. I must admit that I don’t get “upgrading” a wood burning fireplace with an insert. Even if the fireplace has become unsafe due to deferred maintenance is not repair a viable option?
We just spent a wonderful lazy Sunday afternoon enjoying the minor ritual of getting the fire going and maintaining it, the hypnotizing aesthetic and uninterrupted view of the fire itself, the spit and crackle of our homes original, natural wood burning fireplace. We put our feed up, enjoyed a favorite drink, each others close company and the inefficiency of it all. This is why we have a fireplace.
Later we’ll let it die out and our workhorse home furnace will continue with it’s intended purpose. And tomorrow I think I’ll start looking for top rated utilitarian vacation spots…. NOT.
The Snowman is a gift to Beloit showing our support to Beloit International Film Festival and to the movie, Snowman, produced by Diane Hendricks.
The idea of building a snowman was easy but it could not have been done without the backing of many businesses and hard working friends to help make this possible. I would like to show my appreciation by giving thank yous to all of the following.
First of all I would like to thank City Manager, Larry Arft and his staff for going along with the idea and helping to make it possible to build the snowman in the location that it is in. Thank you to James Heidt, Heidt Engineering and thank you to Steve Eldred, First National Bank, and to his employees for giving up parking spaces.
Thank you to Bob and Todd Halderson, Custom Ditching, Gustavo Simental and Alan Herstad, Herstad Landscaping; Brad Ballou, Bill Ballou Masonry; Bushel and Pecks, Bagels and More, and Nikki’s Cafe for coffee and food.
And I could not have built this snowman without the hard working, crazy friends: Larry Diehls, Mark Flessner, Jeff Livingston, Doug Cash, Sharon Carr, Bruce Fernihough, Danielle Clifton, Sean Laughlin and Dan Boutelle. Thank you guys!
Enjoy the snowman and see you at the movies!
The Rock River bisects downtown Beloit WI. One block south from the primary east-west road, Grand Ave. brings you to where at least seven Bald Eagles have taken up residence to live and feed from the Rock River. I’m not a videographer. I’m simply an owner of a flip video so pardon the video quality. If you’re patient you’ll see three instances of the Eagles feeding from the River and at least once where I was able to capture seven of the eagles in a single frame. I hope this is indicative of the ecosystem of the Rock River here.
The video does not do justice. Had to be there. They’re amazing. It’s certainly worth a brief walk down the path along the river to watch them.
01/17/2011 Update: Turns out I was wrong… there aren’t seven Bald Eagles roosting but TWELVE!
Here’s what they really look like, from the one who actually knows how to take a picture, Mr. OldOnliner.
You can see his other work here.
A property owner in the College Park historic district has been in real need of some help. There had been two gatherings already of neighbors and friends to help clean out the house but there remained the 3rd floor attic space along with a number of miscellaneous thing needing cleaning and cleaning out. When we were told that there was a group of Beloit College students interested in helping out in the neighborhood we were thrilled.
Who knew the number of kids that would end up turning out. Wow!
It was gratifying to see wave upon wave of students coming through the front door ready and willing to help us out and pitch in. In the spirit of many hands make for light work they were able to pound out very quickly what would have taken the prior and smaller gatherings of neighbors much longer.
The college is a good neighbor to have. And having students as these… well, double bonus. We took some pics and posted them on our Beloit NPA facebook page here. I’m sorry I didn’t get names. If you’re a student and you recognize someone we’d appreciate your tagging them.
Thanks to all of you who turned out. We couldn’t have done it without your help.
Don’t know if it’s getting old that I post about replacement windows but it has become epidemic.
Serving on the “Landmarks Commission” in my commmunity we’ve seen a doubling of COA’s (certificate of appropriateness) this last year over the year prior for taking out repairable windows for “replacement” windows.
By the time a homeowner has made the decision to replace their windows, submitted their COA and come to the commission their minds are already set and they’ve resigned themselves that they’re going to be spending all that money to replace their windows. After all, the window manufacturers, retailers and installers have all made very compelling arguments for why they should do so. And to boot there are “home energy” subsidy/incentives.
It’s “Green” and saves energy so I’ll save money in the long run on heating expense right? It’ll increase my homes value, right? I’ll bite the bullet and spend the money. It must be the right thing to do. Right?
Well without the benefit of knowing that there are lower-cost alternatives and what the down side is for taking out their repairable, “green-er” and potentially equally efficient windows (combined with sound storm windows) they’re making the best decision they can. And therein lies the challenge. There is very little counterbalance to the prevailing marketing message that replacement windows are the best choice. Consumers simply don’t know what the down-side is, what there options are or how to decide.
- There is a new website, savethewindow.org recently launched by the National Trust for Historic Preservation that attempts to set the record straight on what the hidden costs are of “replacement windows”. They do a great job of telling the story. They had a video. It seems to have gone missing. Here though are others.
- This is the single most compelling outline for how to decide… Should I, or should I not replace my windows. “Repair or Replace Old Windows – A visual look at the Impacts” (It’s a PDF download)
I would though like to add a couple points and observations of my own though. Note, I’ve completely ripped off the pics from the NT’s document “Repair or Replace Old Windows” above to illustrate my own points. So photo credits to them.
- It’s going to impact my homes resale value.
If you have a distinctive, well maintained older home you’re not going to out-new the new construction on the edges of town. I propose that you’re better off playing to the strength of your home and that is the period charm and character of your old house… and that includes your windows. Chances are a new buyer, if they’re interested in “Old Houses” likely have an appreciation for the character original windows add. Clunky, replacement windows can actually diminish the character of your distinctive old house and, I propose, impact your homes marketability.
(Side note: I call these “Little Orphan Annie” houses. It’s easy to find bad examples in clearly distressed neighborhoods. These owners have few options. Homes as this though where they clearly have money to spend… why would they denude a home like this. Ask yourself. A potential home buyer, if they were interested in a distinctive old houses in the first place, would they choose this or another where that same money (or less) was put into repairing what makes homes like these distinctive. If the potential buyer wants “new & generic” there are better new & generic without the bother of old house home ownership.)
- I’m increasing the resale value of my home right?
Often times not. You’ll find that you can’t afford to replace distinctive, high quality windows with anything like what was there originally. It’s just too @%#$ expensive to try and replicate with new windows.
As a result what happens is they swap in down-graded approximations. Add one more nail to the coffin of what had once been a distinctive old house with charm to one that has been denuded and reduced to remudeled ordinaryness.
Old house enthusiasts who can already discern and appreciation the aesthetic of original period windows are likely not interested in rip-n-replace in the first place. It’s more likely that those who don’t see or value the aesthetic of original windows that are quickest to pull them out. These folks are likely better persuaded by the pragmatic economics of replacements.
Actually this is the easier point to make. There is a growing number of independent, 3rd party evaluations on the actual energy savings and cost savings of repaired original windows with a storm over replacement windows. Many of these studies are coming from the utility companies themselves who are debunking the replacement window cost savings smoke-n-mirrors. I’ve blogged on this elsewhere but these citations have expanded since this post.
Saving Windows: Saving Money
Evaluating the energy performance of window replacement and retrofit
Our other posts on home energy and replacement windows
No, Beloit has not won anything… yet. However…
The National Trust for Historic Preservation has been sponsoring the “Main Street” program for about thirty years now. It’s a program to support communities historic down towns because, as they say on their website…
Cities and towns across the nation have come to see that a prosperous, sustainable community is only as healthy as its core.
Sustainable, thriving and historic, center-city downtowns don’t happen by accident. Downtowns that are not making it are all over the place and easy to find. It takes a unified, and I’d say enlightened effort not only by the merchants themselves of course, but also city management and it’s residents. The Main Street Program does a lot but it doesn’t do it for you. If not for the hard work of those involved and the support of the community at large… it doesn’t happen.
And if I may… I believe viable historic downtowns and their surrounding historic neighborhoods work in sync and are mutually supportive. As I’ve said before and elsewhere, proximity is one of the best parts of old house, historic district living. And living just down the street from a thriving downtown is… well, cool.
As it happens only last night Downtown Beloit hosted one of its many yearly downtown events, Holidazzle. It was very well attended. There was music everywhere. Lots of friends, good energy, LOTS of folks WALKING around going from place-to-place. It’s something you can do in a downtown. I can’t imagine something like this even being possible in a suburban strip-malled shopping environment. I don’t believe people (consumers) make the kind of personal connection with generic, franchised retailers out along the interstate. Perhaps that just me.
I do believe Beloit has something special and uncommon here. And they’re wise enough to recognize it and capitalize on it.
I first became aware of Main Street ~ twenty years ago when living in IL. A couple of communities in particular I thought were particularly attractive because of their downtowns. Libertyville, where I lived for a time and Naperville I discovered were both Main Street communities. So I’d seen what it can do.
Capitalizing on the unique character and potential of historic downtowns is not just a Savannah GA thing. Or closer to home, Galena IL thing. Or closer to home Lake Geneva WI thing. It works for no-nonsense, pragmatic, non-sentimental, bottom line minded mid-west communities like Beloit.
Earlier this week I found out that it’s official, Paddle & Trail will the next new merchant coming to down town Beloit. (they’ll be located alongside the new canoe launch on the river… also downtown) Last night was Holidazzle in downtown Beloit and was big fun. The kicker of finding that Beloit is on the short list of Main Street Award winners this morning seemed a fitting, well deserved and timely tribute.
(The new canoe launch opened up last spring. That white building is the back of where Paddle & Trail will be moving in. Cool huh?)
A recent continuing education seminar put on by the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota and Portland OR addressed how best to market old houses. It was reported on recently on the Finance & Commerce website.
“Owning and selling a historic property can be a gratifying – and lucrative – experience for property owners. But the process of determining a property’s historic status and then properly marketing it to reflect that status can make the difference between a big sale and an ordinary one.”
A key factor is that of simple economics of supply and demand. There is an ever-expanding supply of new home construction for that larger share of the market that appreciates new construction.
For that smaller but growing market for quality old houses with character in stable and improving neighborhoods in convenient proximity to community amenities, that supply is diminishing in many areas but growing to meet demand in others as property owners renovate and restore their homes.
What are best practices for selling old houses in historic districts?
- Doing your homework on the house. “All of that allows you to create a story around the property.”
Personally, I love stories. And old houses and neighborhoods have stories that simply don’t exist in suburban and new construction. Knowing the story of the house and effectively telling it adds real value to your home.
- “Some key selling points for a historic property, she said, are associated tax incentives…”
If your home is already within a historic district up to 25% of approved work can be recouped. This is significant. If though your home is outside the historic district your home may be individually registered or eligible. Marketing that your home as within a historic district communicates there are higher standards. There are some safeguards that help protect the home and neighborhood from some things that can diminish property values.
There are a number of additional points the presenters tough on. Interesting to note they emphasize how originally intact is the home.
“…be sure to highlight the property’s original elements, Davis said. Is the home’s character still intact? Are the moldings and fixtures original? Has the building been restored, as opposed to remodeled?”
Too often we see a short-sighted rip-n-replace mindset when home maintenance comes into play. This is particularly prevalent among flippers and some residents who don’t fully realize they’re actually degrading their own property. If a potential buyer is interested in an old or historic property in the first place it’s most likely they also have an appreciation for the original fabric of the house. Even if shabby and in need of repair, as long as it still exists restoration is still an option. Once removed though its often cost prohibitive to replace again with the grade of materials that have been removed…. if it’s even available at any price.
Given the current housing situation if you live in an old house the linked article on how to sell old houses is likely good information to have. Wanting to maximize your return on your home though is not unique to a slow housing market and will remain true later when things improve.
The Wisconsin Historic Society has been hard at work digitizing it’s vast photo collection and getting them online. They’ve been working on this over the last year but don’t know how much further they have to go. Every few months I’ll go in to see if they’ve added anything more from the Beloit area. You can view the emerging archive for Beloit here.
Anyway, there are many that I find interesting but was intrigued by the Harriet Wheeler House. The house dated from 1884 is identified as being located “…at the corner of Chapin Street and Milwaukee Road.) Interesting, but WHICH corner? Anyone out there know?
Given the background topography I’d judge it was either the N.W. corner or N.E.
Thanks to the magic of Google Maps Street View this is what that intersection looks like today. You can sweep the image around to get a look at the other corners. What do you think? Anyone know where it actually was located? You can comment below.
View Larger Map
Please take a look. Let us know what you think.
There will be a “Special Meeting” of the Landmarks Commission tomorrow evening to revisit the Beloit College proposal for expanded parking, among other things.
Landmarks Commission Special Meeting:
- June 22nd.
- 5:00 p.m.
- City Hall Forum
Following the commission meeting last Tuesday Beloit College has made some revisions to their proposed COA. It is in the public record and you can download it here.
What has drawn public comment on this COA is mostly around proposed parking changes on Emerson.
Given some timing constraints this date and time was the soonest that was available to revisit this COA. Public consideration and input is always helpful and welcomed regardless of your position on this or any items before the Landmarks Commission.
If you are available to attend, you are welcomed. If you are not able to attend, you are invited to send a -brief- note to City Planner Drew Pennington.
If you are sending a note please include your name and address for the record. Can’t say for sure but I’d assume anonymous comments may be void.
The college is also proposing changes to public property on Chapin Street and College Street. You can see this on the map attached to the COA. This is NOT however part of the COA or under the review of the Landmarks Commission.
Parking in the public right-of-way will likely be reviewed by the Traffic Review Committee on Monday, June 28th and the City Council on Tuesday, July 6th.
Traffic Review Committee Meeting:
- Monday June 28th.
- 1:30 p.m.
- City Hall Forum
City Council Meeting:
- Tuesday July 6th.
- 7:00 p.m.
- City Hall Forum