Reviving Racine – Horlick Malted Milk Factory’s Transformation

Exploring the journey of J. Jeffers & Co.'s vision to revitalize a historic landmark into Belle City Square

RACINE, Wis. — Racine is known for its innovative companies and products. The same innovative spirit was applied when J. Jeffers & Co. reimagined the former historic Horlick Malted Milk manufacturing facility into a vibrant, mixed-use neighborhood with 400 housing units and a variety of spaces for commercial and retail businesses.

The story starts back in 1882 with two brothers from England, William and James Horlick, deciding to locate the J&W Horlick Company in Racine, Wisconsin, enticed by its ample land and water resources. At the heart of their initiative stood the Horlick Malted Milk Factory, a pioneering venture that brought a unique malted milk product to the Racine community and beyond.

This factory, born out of the Horlick brothers’ vision, became a cornerstone of the local economy, growing to over 500 employees. To meet the burgeoning demand for their innovative product, a Second Factory Block was added to the grounds in 1902, signaling a period of expansion and prosperity. Subsequent additions, such as the engine room building was added in 1910, and a garage was added in 1916, allowing the distribution of Horlick’s malted milk worldwide.

The former Horlick Malted Milk Factory now known as Bell City Square

However, as time passed, the ownership of the factory changed hands, and its operations diversified. From hosting Racine Hydraulics and Western Publishing in the mid-20th century to Beecham Group in the 1970s, the factory underwent several transformations. In 1975, on its 100th anniversary, the Horlick Malted Milk Factory ceased its operations, marking the end of an era.

Despite its storied past, the factory’s facilities were underutilized until 2018 when J. Jeffers & Co. acquired the 16-acre property with grand aspirations for its revival. Their vision took shape in October 2019 when they applied for National Register of Historic Places inclusion, successfully securing this prestigious designation by 2020. Shortly after, J. Jeffers & Co. unveiled a vision to transform the site into a mixed-use town center and chose the name “Belle City Square.”

In the summer of 2021, The Arabella, the first apartment building within Belle City Square opened. By 2023, the William building underwent revitalization, and the Avenue North Apartments stood as a testament to the project’s commitment and progress. Altus Vinyl, a local manufacturer, is the first commercial business to operate at Belle City Square. The next addition is The Inclusive Bean, a coffee shop designed to create opportunities for adults with cognitive, physical, or other disabilities.

The Avenue Apartments at Belle City Square in Racine, WI
The Avenue Apartments located in the William building at Belle City Square in Racine, WI

“J. Jeffers & Co. sees great value in recruiting a diversity of commercial tenant types within its mixed-use redevelopments,” notes Lisa Wogan, J. Jeffers & Co. Economic Development Specialist.

J. Jeffers & Co.’s affordable leases for impactful community organizations and revitalization efforts are supported by the City of Racine. The project aims to create an accessible, vibrant neighborhood, fostering community wealth and economic vitality through diverse housing, employment, and entrepreneurship opportunities.

Integrating light industrial and maker space uses, in particular, serves to boost the proportion of family-supporting, sustainable jobs; facilitate entrepreneurship; and contribute meaningfully to the larger community’s goals around economic mobility.

In essence, Belle City Square embodies Racine’s spirit of innovation and resilience, breathing new life into a historic landmark while paving the way for a brighter, more inclusive future.

Greater Racine County (GRC) is an initiative of the Racine County Economic Development Corporation (RCEDC)  that highlights and promotes the many positive assets of Racine County for those who decide to take root in Racine County.

We encourage visitors to explore Racine County, stay a while, and enjoy our communities.

Racine, US
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