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Janesville officials taking final steps toward riverfront plan

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Jake Magee
July 18, 2014

JANESVILLE—City officials are taking the final steps toward starting the Rock Renaissance Area Redevelopment and Implementation Strategy, and it has residents excited.

The group behind the plan held the third of four meetings Thursday night in the Janesville Performing Arts Center. The strategy aims to rejuvenate downtown Janesville through a $200,000 Brownfields Area-Wide Planning grant.

Residents mingled with officials and looked at posters displaying detailed plans for the city's riverfront.

Janesville's economic development coordinator Ryan Garcia encouraged attendees to fill out a survey to gauge their feelings about the plan. The reactions seemed unanimous.

“I haven't seen anything I don't like,” said Bob Baker .

“I think it's a great idea,” a 15-year resident said. “I'm very supportive.”

“I believe this is really the future for Janesville. I think this is going to push us forward,” said Laura Barten. “I think many of the projects that are happening downtown that are part of a larger plan are sort of the spark that lights the fire that transforms what this community looks like.”

Garcia wanted the meeting to provide a “status check” to the public on the strategy's progress. One half of the room displayed background information on the six project sites along the Rock River. The other half showed the projects residents deemed important in two previous meetings.

“The purpose of the night is just to educate and bring people up to speed, keep them engaged as we move … towards how we get some of this stuff done,” he said.

Garcia said he wants to focus on the Rock River as an asset. A parking lot built over the water is a sign that we've “turned our back” on the river, he said.

One of the components of the strategy is to remove the parking deck and convert it into a town square to host dances, bands and other entertainment, Garcia said.

Garcia said he expected people who oppose the strategy to voice their concerns as they have in the past.

“I absolutely expect people to say, 'I'm not a fan.' You can't avoid that when you do something like this,” he said. “We have already heard and we will continue to hear people that … think, 'any time the city spends money it's a bad idea.'”

Still, dozens of residents filled the center to learn about the downtown's plans, and many of them were new, Garcia said.

“Many of the faces in this room have not been at past meetings, which is a good thing in that they're building awareness, but it's unfortunate … that these folks show up at this stage in the game rather than at well-publicized events that were earlier on where they could have provided some constructive criticism to the process,” Garcia said.

“We'll have to do better in our efforts to reach out to the community as we begin these processes,” he said.

Concepts for the Marvin W. Roth Community Pavilion and the Janesville Riverfront Amphitheater also were displayed despite not being a part of the strategy.

Garcia said projects unrelated to the strategy were shown because they “can't be ignored.”

The fourth and last meeting is Wednesday, Sept. 10, and will focus on how the city plans to implement its strategy.



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