Downtowns are the heart of every community. It is where local businesses thrive, folks are greeted with warm, hometown smiles. Downtowns historically have been a major hub for towns through the centuries. With the passage of time, downtowns age, requiring repairs and renovation. But with commitment and dedication, residents in Beatrice, Ogallala, and Scottsbluff, have been able to breathe life back into their downtowns.
Beatrice (pop. 12,157), has an energized working downtown. Located at the crossroads of U.S. Highways 77 and 136, the downtown district has enjoyed a resurgence of growth opportunities. Filled with restaurants, clothing stores, and niche businesses, Beatrice has been able to remain stable. To keep this stability and strengthen the downtown, redevelopment efforts were needed.
Improvements needed for downtown Beatrice included repaving specific streets, restoring facades of commercial buildings, and enforcing vacant building codes. In October 2011, Beatrice was awarded $350,000 CDBG funding from DED, and the downtown was able to start renovations.
One of the biggest successes was the Fifth Street project that entailed the renewal of Fifth Street, between Court and Ella streets. This included redesigning the right of way and putting in new curbs and bump outs. A brick mural was introduced, portraying two different scenes. One side details Gage County’s homestead heritage and the other side reflects the business community and early Beatrice. Another addition was a historically accurate clock, similar to one found downtown during years past. Traubel’s Popcorn Stand was reopened on Fifth and Court after being closed for over 25 years. Julie’s Hotdog Stand also occupies Fifth Street during the lunch hour. Angle parking was installed on both sides of the street. The area has become a place where people look forward to interesting, fun events every third Thursday. This could be anything from a music arts festival to a salute to local auto racing.
The Fifth Street project was completed in November 2013. An abundance of life has been brought back to the street. Driving through the area you notice people ordering at the food stands, relaxing, and enjoying the space. It has brought people together and made a great place to celebrate. Beatrice continues to make strides toward a bright future.