QUINCY — The south side business district in Quincy has faded from its peak, with stores sitting empty and unused spaces calling back to the days of the bustling heart of a community.
A group of Quincy residents is taking steps to try and breathe new life into once-thriving corner of the city.
“A bunch of us were all looking to buy different buildings to work on,” Brian Stitt said. Stitt, along with his wife Kerstin, along with their friends Douglas Peterson and Caitlyn Murray and Andy and Dana Caley are collaborating to create Calftown Corner, focused on the 8th and State neighborhood.
“We want to make a walkable community,” Stitt said. “An area where people can live and work and relax, all close to home.”
The group is working on updating building on the northwest corner of the busy intersection, including the State Room theater and the former Summit spa building.
“The first space we’re aiming to open will be the Calftown Café,” Stitt said. “It’ll offer breakfast and lunch, with the goal being fast service but a relaxed atmosphere for people to enjoy time with friends, get some work done, whatever they need.”
As part of the project, a request has been filed with the city to vacate a portion of the alley that runs from Seventh to Eighth streets to cut down on vehicle traffic. If approved, the alley space would be converted to outdoor seating for the café.
Other projects include making a shared office-space that can rented by the day, week or month, a need that had come into sharper focus over the last 18 months or so with people working from home and needing a less-traditional space.
Apartments are being created that will offer affordable housing that will welcome anyone to the community.
“Quincy, and the Calftown area in particular, was founded as an immigrant community,” Stitt said. “Those people made a home for themselves and their neighbors regardless of stigmas they may have fought. That’s what we want to bring back to the neighborhood, and to Quincy.”
The State Theatre will remain as an event space that will be available for rent, but also house projects close to the heart of the owners.
“The Wandering Calf Film Series was created to bring smaller, independent films to Quincy,” Andy Caley said. “It was designed to share things that you wouldn’t find at the AMC Theaters. The plan is to keep that going.”
Stitt said he moved to Quincy about four years ago and, along with the others in the group, just fell in love with the architecture and the history of Quincy.
“The whole idea just felt really exciting,” he said. “I think a lot of people, both residents and businesses, take for granted what Quincy has to offer. We want to put a spotlight back on that.”
The group is not just one big partnership. Different buildings and different businesses have different partnerships among the six principals, based on their ideas and their passions. But the common goal is to rejuvenate the south end of town.
“This isn’t purely a money-making plan,” Stitt said. “Of course we want to have successful businesses, but we want to build on what’s here and make a stronger community.
“If you look at the neighborhood, you have dance studios, salons, restaurants, the bank. The foundation is already there, it just needs a nudge to bring it all together as one neighborhood again.”
The current plan is to have the Calftown Café open in the fall, with other pieces coming online as they’re ready, but without rushing. Stitt said people in the area can expect to start seeing signage going up before too long.