Downtown Janesville business owners hear details on Main Street project

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Gina Duwe
Wednesday, July 30, 2014

JANESVILLE--City officials and downtown business owners say they will work together to create communications plans to help residents navigate construction on Main Street next summer.

Parking was a concern, however, at a meeting Tuesday night. City staff and their consultants from MSA Professional Services described the scope of the rehabilitation project and took questions from property and business owners.

The project will replace aging utilities, the roadway surface, sidewalks, some curb and gutter and will add amenities such as benches, trees and lighting along Main Street between St. Lawrence Avenue and Centerway.

The project will close the street to traffic for months, though pedestrian access will be available.

The city is looking for input now as it finalizes the design of the half-mile, $1.46 million project.

Legends owner Tim Millis and Looking Glass owner Matt Schreier questioned whether the end result would look different enough to make people come downtown.

Schreier said he was disappointed the project does not include electrical access for events, something he said the city will tackle later.

Getting through the construction, he said, is a matter of one's perspective. His bar has a back entrance next to a parking ramp, so patrons still will have relatively easy access.

Millis, however, was concerned about customer access to his bar during summer, which already a slow time for him because he does not have outdoor seating. He hopes to work with the city to improve his back entrance along the Rock River as downtown efforts focus on highlighting the area.

Patrons will have to enter the riverwalk from Firehouse Park or Milwaukee Street to reach his back entrance, he said.

“It's accessible. It's not convenient,” he said. “It's not an obvious entrance.”

Joni Bozart, owner of Carousel Consignments, was pleased to hear the project will be split into two phases, meaning her portion of the street will only be torn up for half of the project.

The city has not decided which segment will be built first: St. Lawrence to Milwaukee Street or Milwaukee Street to Centerway, said Mike Statz, project manager with MSA. A detour route will be posted, he said.

Bozart wondered whether the vacant city lot behind her business at Parker Drive and Court Street could be used for parking during construction.

City engineer Mike Payne said the city will look at that idea, as well as other unused parking options. Another owner wondered whether the city would provide recommendations about where to direct people to park.

Payne said the city likely would create a web page for the project with updates and public parking lots. A pamphlet for downtown customers could be part of public-private partnership efforts to keep people coming downtown, he said.

Building and business owners should meet now to plan strategies, said Jackie Wood, who owns Olde Towne Mall.

“There's some innovative things we can do,” she said after the meeting.

Statz pointed to the reconstruction of downtown areas in other cities.

"Talk to some of these other communities, find out what they did and what worked well,” he said.

Businesses in Waunakee, which is going through construction now, held sales before construction started that offered credits patrons could spend during the project in an effort to get people to return, Statz said.

Wood said she was pleased with the design and layout.

Right now, the street looks “pretty disjointed,” with things like a big tree next to a small tree and missing bricks, she said.

“This is really going to be fantastic,” she said.

Last updated: 12:35 am Wednesday, July 30, 2014

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