Alex Allon with Dr. John Beltz in front of the future Bertram Beltz Community Plaza named in honor of Dr. Beltz's father Bertram, a well known and respected Watertown businessman.
“When I first saw the buildings being torn down, I was skeptical about whether it [the Bentzin Family Town Square] would be successful,” admitted Dr. John Beltz, DVM. After reading more about the project’s goals and researching how similar projects were successful in other communities, Beltz said he, “changed [his] opinion of the project and [is] now a strong believer and supporter.”
Recently Beltz and Alex Allon, Executive Director of the Watertown Redevelopment Authority (RDA) visited the Town Square construction site to watch workers drive steel pilings deep into the rock to stabilize the river’s edge. This is where Beltz donated $250,000 in honor of his father Bertram to name the plaza by the river: the Bertram Beltz Community Plaza.
In 1947, after serving as a bomber pilot in WWII, Bertram Beltz moved to Watertown to manage Ray’s Shoe Store on Main Street, now Brown Shoe Fit Co. A hard worker and entrepreneur, Bertram purchased and grew the business, eventually owning and managing 13 stores throughout Wisconsin, Iowa, and Michigan. As a downtown Watertown business owner, Bertram was, “community-minded and well-respected” recalls Beltz. “He, like others in the Greatest Generation, served many different organizations and worked on numerous civic projects. Even though he came from very modest beginnings, he saw opportunity in Watertown and was able to enjoy success and give back to his community”
Beltz is already seeing positive outcomes of the Town Square rippling through the downtown. “Opportunities come when a person can see value in what’s happening before the crowd. Forward thinking entrepreneurs see beyond the current state, and invest in what something can become.” For the Town Square specifically, “It is so critical for people to see this as more than a park,”
Allon agreed. “Yes, it is a place for people to come for community events, but it is so much more. The main reason the Bentzin Family Town Square was created is to be one of the economic development tools revitalizing the downtown. That clearly is the value that Dr. Beltz, other donors, and business owners see.”
“What makes a downtown vibrant?” asks Beltz. “It’s both businesses and people. A community needs high-quality public spaces to serve in conjunction with a unique business mix as a way to bring people in.”
“Every town has to have its own identity,” Beltz continued. “Watertown isn’t Lake Geneva or Oconomowoc. It’s Watertown and we are rediscovering and developing our own identity which is authentic to Watertown. Watertown has a unique history and resources that other cities don’t have. Watertown is well grounded and traditional. People come looking for that authenticity,” he concluded.
“We are Watertown and we will do it our way,” concluded Allon. “We’ve got the framework for success. On behalf of the RDA and citizens of Watertown, thank you John for your support of the Town Square and Watertown’s successful future.”