Belle City Square lights up for Christmas again

RACINE — It was not all that long ago that the Horlick Malted Milk Company Industrial Complex sat on Northwestern Avenue abandoned and a ghost of its former glory days.

Now restored and rechristened the Belle City Square, Christmas trees peep out from windows and families call the place home.

On Wednesday, residents of the two historic structures — now called the William and Arabella, after the inventor of malted milk and his wife — gathered for the second annual Christmas tree lighting.

The Christmas tree lighting was an annual event when the complex still produced malted milk. The tradition ceased during World War II.

The restored old clock on the tower chimed and those gathered in the square cheered as the tree was lit once again to honor the old tradition.

Lit again

The Christmas tree is lit once again, for the second year in a row, above Belle City Square.

The festivities continued inside with a visit from Santa Claus, treats and a Christmas market.

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The tree lighting was an opportunity for the J. Jeffers Company and CG Schmidt to give a tour of the new apartment building going up southwest of the William Building, which has the clock tower as a point of reference.

Who's watching who?

Clint Welker shares a look Wednesday with Robert Wayne Nichols, dressed as Santa Claus, during the opening reception for the Holiday Makers Market at Belle City Square, 2202 Northwestern Ave. Nichols, who speaks with a thick Southern drawl, considers himself to be the “Santa from the South Pole.”

Alex Rodriguez

The new apartment buildings will be called The Avenues and have been described as the first new market-rate construction for apartments in Racine in more than two decades.

The new construction features two buildings. One will have 83 apartments and one will have 84 apartments. There will be a combination of studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom, and three bedroom apartments.

The buildings were designed with amenities modern apartment dwellers are shopping for. For example, they will be pet friendly and there will be a pet-washing station.

There will also be shared spaces, such as a deck that will be piped for a gas barbeque and fire pit.

The apartments are expected to be completed and open to renters in summer of 2023.

The construction of The Avenues benefits from a developer TID. As such, it is subject to Racine Works, meaning 20% of work hours must be undertaken by a city of Racine resident.

Approximately 20 of the 60 people working at the site are city residents.

Josh Jeffers, the CEO of J. Jeffers and Company, outlined the vision he has for the future of Belle City Square that would include commercial venues such as a coffee shop and restaurants.

“Each year we want to continue to expand the complex and build it out and continue this great traditions,” he said.

‘A great reflection of our values’

The Avenues are being constructed to LEED certification standards. Both the William and Arabella are LEED certified, indicating the intentional effort to reduce the carbon footprint associated with its renovation and use.

LEED certifications are issued by the US Green Building Council. There are four levels: certified, silver, gold, and platinum.

The buildings reduce water waste by utilizing low-flow plumbing fixtures and water metering. There is also a system to reduce light pollution production and a solar array.

Making spirits bright

City of Racine Mayor Cory Mason, right, is joined by Summyah Ward, center, and Charlotte Eck-Welker to light the rooftop tree on top of Belle City Square, 2202 Northwestern Ave., Wednesday evening. This is the second annual tree lighting for Belle City Square.

Alex Rodriguez

Mayor Cory Mason called the complex “a great reflection of our values.”

“We’re saving historic places, doing it in a green and carbon friendly way,” he said, “and we’re doing it in a way that lifts up our community with family-supporting jobs.”