FROM THE GROUND UP: DOWNTOWN BELLEVILLE
Injecting new life into a historic downtown core takes a deliberate mix of brave insight, visionary planning and the faith that if you build it, they will come.
“That’s what all you millennials want these days,” said someone I told my dream to. I wasn’t talking about the typical travelling-the-world-for-free or making-money-on-my-laptop dreams (though those would be great, too).
No, my dream is to live smack-dab in the middle of Belleville’s downtown core. And I’m not the only one with that dream. The booming success of the new Century Village condominium is but one indicator of the desire to live in the city’s core. It’s also a telltale sign that Belleville’s downtown revitalization movement, a trend visible in small communities across the country, is working.
In recent years, Belleville has undergone an extensive revitalization from the underground up, starting with the infrastructure below Front Street and working its way up the facade of every building.
Even as this revitalization continues, Belleville has managed to maintain its historical allure, which is almost certainly contributing to the desire to live here, a desire shared between younger and older generations alike.
Downtown Revitalization Improvement Project
From the dirt roads of 1910 to the pavement we see today, Belleville’s Front Street is no stranger to revitalization. Over the last six years it has undergone some big changes, starting with everything below the street.
Front Street’s underground infrastructure needed new utilities, watermains, sanitary sewers and storm sewers. Also, some existing sanitary sewers had to be relined. Once that was taken care of, focus shifted to surface work.
Front Street and some adjacent side streets, boulevards and sidewalks were reconstructed with asphalt, concrete and clay-brick pavements. Revitalization didn’t stop at the road—new street lights and traffic lights, street furniture, granite curb planters and trees were also added to the city’s core.
Many of these large-scale changes we use daily without seeing or fully appreciating them—sanitary sewers, I’m looking at you. These changes handled the streets and everything under them. Now let’s talk buildings.
Facade Improvement Initiative
Have you found yourself wandering the downtown core lately? Have you felt a sense of allure there? It’s likely the inviting streetscape calming your senses. But underway facade repairs might be helping, too.
The facade improvement initiative was designed to preserve the rich architecture of Belleville’s downtown core, to restore and rehabilitate its buildings in a way that protects their unique historical character.
How does it work? Building owners in Belleville’s downtown improvement area are eligible to apply for funding—up to $15,000 each for a single wall or $20,000 each for two walls—to restore their buildings’ facades.
Business owner Zubin Gillespie has taken advantage of this initiative and encourages others to do so as well. “Thank God for the facade program,” Gillespie says, adding that its benefits go beyond the city’s financial contribution—there’s a shifting psychology downtown.
“Three years ago, families weren’t walking downtown. When building owners repair their facades, it changes the whole look. Now we’re seeing families walking here, and they really appreciate it. They’re proud.”
Behind the picturesque facades of many downtown buildings lie unique work-live interiors, with retail spaces on ground floors and living spaces above. Many historical features preserved on facades are visible inside, too, as gorgeous exposed stone or brick.
There are now multiple buildings downtown with active storefronts on the ground floors and residents occupying the upper floors. But this wasn’t always the case, and restoring these beautiful buildings has been a battle.
According to Zubin, who, along with his wife, Kim Fedor, has restored many buildings with a work-live layout, the second and third floors of many buildings have sat untouched for upwards of 40 years.
They, like others restoring buildings downtown, fought holes in floors, structural insecurities, burnt walls and piles of pigeon poop. But out of the (literal) ashes, came an attractive, welcoming and downright cozy aesthetic, creating an almost inexplicable allure for Belleville’s core for retailers and residents alike. Aesthetics are bringing the people—the vibrant downtown community is making them stay.
So if you want to live the loft life, it’s yours for the taking in Belleville, if you love exposed stone and brick and hardwood floors, that is. (Who wouldn’t?)
199 Front St, Belleville
With the opening of Century Village comes an opportunity for condo living in Belleville’s downtown hub. These luxurious residential suites come with hardwood floors in communal areas, designer kitchens and bathroom cabinetry, pot lights and quartz bathroom countertops (optional), plus many more luxurious amenities.
The rooftop patio allows residents to socialize with one another, creating a community atmosphere. There’s also a workout facility and coffee shop on site, so you can live, exercise and stay caffeinated without leaving the building. That sounds pretty ideal to me.
Each condominium comes with underground parking and locker storage, but residents may find themselves leaving their cars parked—the riverfront trail, boutique shopping and some of the most delicious eats in the Quinte area are all within walking distance.
Business owners can also get in on this location’s benefits, as units on the first two floors are open to commercial ownership.
211 Pinnacle St, Belleville
From historic hotel to upscale condo, the Pinnacle is an exciting new development on the corner of Pinnacle Street and Bridge Street, which previously housed the Quinte Hotel. It boasts carefree living and is designed to deliver.
Beyond the underground parking, residents will have access to an underground car-wash station, electric-car charging station and even a dog-wash station.
There’ll be a garbage chute located on each floor, saving residents the walk to a bin.
Inside each unit, you’ll see quartz countertops, stainless-steel appliances, a front-loading washer and dryer and upscale bathrooms with frameless-glass shower enclosures. Most units will feature modern electric fireplaces in their living rooms, perfect for cozy nights spent indoors.
This development is unique in the Belleville area as it features a raised courtyard, giving residents private access to a yard, a feature often lost to condominiums.