Case Study: Beloit College Powerhouse, Beloit, Wisconsin

Beloit Powerhouse before and after rehabilitation
Beloit Water, Gas & Electric Company Powerhouse/Blackhawk Generating Station before (left) and after (right) rehabilitation, Beloit, Wisconsin

Before photo: Tom Harris, Studio Gang Architects and Zane Williams
After photo: Studio Gang Architects
Courtesy Beloit College

The Powerhouse, Beloit College’s student center for recreation and health, stands at the east bank of the Rock River in Beloit, Wisconsin. The historic building assemblage is composed of multiple sections, some of red-brick load-bearing masonry with timber beams steel trusses, and some of steel-reinforced concrete construction finished with Wisconsin’s well-known Cream City brick. Erected between 1907 and 1949, the power plant was a combination of the Beloit Water, Gas & Electric Company Powerhouse and the Blackhawk Generating Station.

The Powerhouse’s location adjacent to the Beloit College campus made it an attractive rehabilitation option for the school. The College, The Alexander Company, and Studio Gang Architects seized the opportunity to turn the 120,000 square-foot historic power plant into a mission-driven student center combining health, recreation, and healthy food options. The new design respects the historic character of the spaces by retaining architectural features and industrial equipment from the original structure while incorporating new sustainable practices and lively gathering spaces that encourage students to mix with each other and the larger Beloit community. The interior features a suspended running track, an eight-lane competition pool, a recreational gym, an auditorium, and student lounges and club rooms. The Studio Gang-designed addition is a polycarbonate-clad indoor turf field house that provides natural light throughout the day and can be transformed into an open-air pavilion in the summer. A federal and state river walk grant opened the river’s edge in front of the Powerhouse to create paths and parks on a key stretch of riverfront that had been closed to the public for nearly 100 years.

The Alexander Company assisted Beloit College in bringing this project to fruition as the consulting developer, which entailed the preparation of the applications for the Historic Tax Credits and New Markets Credits, providing financial modeling and arranging financing, as well as overseeing the construction draw process, financial reporting, and compliance.

The project has won many design awards, and according to Beloit College’s website, “The Powerhouse is a first-of-its-kind facility in the country—preserving a historical building while combining student life spaces and recreational facilities.”

Last updated: January 23, 2024