The Fairbanks Flats Apartments were an eyesore in downtown Beloit, in spite of their history.
Built during World War I as temporary housing for African-American workers brought from the Deep South to fill manpower shortages, they are Wisconsin’s only known existing community housing project built exclusively for black workers.
But by 1999, the Flats sat vacant and deteriorating. The city bought the property at salvage value intending to demolish the buildings and redevelop or land bank the site for future use.
African-American and other residents concerned about historic preservation asked the city to give them time to find a way to develop the site while preserving its history.
For the next four years, a committee of residents and city council members, with staff support from the city manager and assistant city manager, explored and rejected numerous alternatives.
In 2006, a developer who specialized in tax credit projects entered the picture and, after obtaining historic preservation and low income housing tax credits, construction began in 2008.
Today, Fairbanks Flats has returned to life. It has the look and feel of the original design, but its 16 rent-to-own rowhomes for low-to-moderate income families and people with disabilities meet the need for affordable housing in the twenty-first century.