By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published May 24, 2022 at 9:03 AM

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As developers unveil not only the second Belle City Square apartment building at the former Horlick Malted Milk manufacturing site, at 2100 Northwestern Ave. in Racine, but also the restored 1911 clocktower and bell on top, it seemed like a good time to return to the site for an update.

Milwaukee developer Josh Jeffers purchased the 16-acre former Horlick Malted Milk Co. in 2018 and announced he would convert it into a mixed-use town center in June 2020, and we went over to take a look at the complex and its long history in Racine.

William Horlick opened the company in Racine in 1875, but the company ceased operations there exactly 100 years later, leaving a sprawling complex, built between 1885 and 1926, along Northwestern Avenue.

The $100 million Historic Horlick District project – a mix of historic buildings and newly constructed townhomes to create a mixed-use neighborhood with retail, recreation, residential and educational uses – got started with interior demolition and site work like new roads and sidewalks and burying power lines.

But almost exactly a year after the announcement, the first apartment building – located in the old malting house – opened,

The Arabella, named for the wife of Horlick co-founder William Horlick has 60 affordable and market-rate apartments, more than 60 percent of which were rented by the time of last year’s ribbon cutting.

Now it is full.

Some apartments open onto a grassy patch, and one is located within one of the former kilns. Another old kiln serves as an evocative atrium space.

On May 3, The William opened in the distinctive clocktower building – built in 1885, with a 1910-11 addition – with 86 market-rate apartments, about 20 of which are currently occupied.

In this building, one original staircase – with its gorgeous woodwork – has been preserved and there are fine little details all throughout, including exposed original ceilings, and in some upper-floor apartments, unpainted cream city brick.

The apartments I saw had large windows letting copious amounts of light into a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, many of which are quite unique in terms of layout. In fact, there are 42 different apartment floor plans in the 86 units.

There is a fitness center, club room, cyber lounge, outdoor patio and other amenities for residents.

At the top of the building, next to a solar array to match the one atop The Arabella, stands the gothic clocktower, capped with a bell that used to signal lunchtime for the Horlick workers but now will ring twice daily.

 

 

Of course, I had to have a peek and climbed a few ladders, hopped a parapet wall and ducked into a low doorway and up through a hatch to see the clockworks, which were recently restored by the grandson of the original installer.

Then, I climbed another ladder to snap a photo of the bell itself.

The huge pond out front, long filled, has been reopened and the entire site is being landscaped.

Work continues apace at the site, where there’s still more to come.

Another vintage building to the north of The William is due to be renovated into apartments and other, smaller former Horlick buildings are expected to house cafes and restaurants.

An open space on the south end of the property will house newly constructed residential units, due to be completed in a few years.

All of the site’s historical buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Horlick factory originally constructed in 1885, warehouse (1890), malt mill (1893), machine shop (1900), pattern storehouse (1900), second and third factories (1904 and 1910), entry gates (1908), depot (1914), garage (1916), grain elevator (1922) and a second warehouse (1926).

“This development is stunning already and will be such a gem as it evolves along this major thoroughfare of Racine,” said Mayor Cory Mason when The Arabella opened. “We are excited about Belle City Square becoming an urban town center rich with local residents, services and retail offerings, and (this) is just the start.

“We need such modern, safe and energy efficient housing and the business development and neighborhood services that will emerge at Belle City Square will bring value to the City and our residents.”

You can read more about the plan, the site’s history and watch a video walkthrough of the site here.

Here are some photos from the site as it appears today:

Appropriate lounge snack

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Vintage staircase

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Solar array

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Buildings still to be renovated

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The William Lounge

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Apartment kitchen in The William

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Exposed ceiling in The William

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Living room in The William

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Another apartment in The William

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Windows galore!

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Fitness center

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"Ghost" window

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The Arabella "garden" apartments

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Gothic tower

https://storage.googleapis.com/onmilwaukee-article-images/sazetkzolcul861dzoefg3jkdq8rX

Inside the clock tower

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The bell

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Arabella atrium in the former malt kiln

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Atrium photos by Tricia Shay Photography.
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Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.