TOWN OF BELOIT

A group of students from UW-Milwaukee will work with town officials and interview residents this fall to research the possibility of developing a town center.

Town Administrator Tim Wellnitz said the project can help imagine new possibilities for drawing visitors to the area and providing a central gathering place for residents.

“The idea is to look at and imagine what the possibilities could look like for a town center in the industrial park,” Wellnitz said. “It is nice to have an outside perspective from those with expertise and planning.”

For example, Wellnitz said, the town’s industrial park near Turner High School has numerous businesses but also a fair amount of large, vacant lots that could be potential sites for a town center or other developments.

Kyle Talbott, an architecture professor at UW-Milwaukee, said his students previously worked with local officials in Orfordville and Lake Geneva on projects since the “Rural Futures” program was launched a few years ago.

“We’re really interested in helping municipalities gain access to urban design and suburban redevelopment thinking,” Talbott said. “We hope it’s a way to disseminate these ideas and get them into the hands of people that really need them.”

During the semesterlong project this fall, Talbott said his students will visit the town, meet with local officials and residents, host community events, and study data and maps to generate ideas.

The students also will spend time learning about local landmarks and getting to know local history while seeking feedback along the way.

An exhibition event will take place toward the end of the year, where students will share renderings and information with local residents.

Talbott said the students earn valuable work experience by getting off campus and working with people. And like any good architecture firm, the students aim to exceed expectations, he said.

“It’s a great way to spark a conversation and just get people excited about the possibilities,” Talbott said.

Wellnitz said he and other town officials are looking forward to an initial visit with the students Sept. 3 as well as various follow-up meetings throughout the fall as the project moves forward. He said resident feedback will be an important piece of the project.

Among the questions students are likely to have for residents could be why they live there, the benefits of living there and what types of improvements they want to see.

“This is a great partnership that allows the township to get great insight and advice related to planning and development in this area without any cost, and it gives the students an opportunity to get real-life projects that they can actually physically see and that may also be unique to what they may encounter in the future,” Wellnitz said.

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