Janesville City Council to tour city-owned former gas station

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Neil Johnson
Saturday, August 9, 2014

JANESVILLE—City Manager Mark Freitag said he hopes a tour Monday of the vacant former gas station next to police station will help the city council decide whether or not to keep the building.

The council will tour the historic, city-owned former Standard Oil station at 101 S. Franklin St. The building is across from City Hall and adjacent to the police station. City staff earlier this year showed plans to demolish the building, but the council had voted to slow those plans.

Freitag said since the city's initial move to tear down the building to remove “blight,” he's realized it would be most fair for the council to actually see inside the place.

He called the council's 6-1 vote April 28 to hold off on tearing the property down a “lesson learned.”

Freitag said a half-hour tour of the building before Monday's regular council meeting is intended to help the council better decide on city staff recommendations on the building's future. Those recommendations will come Aug. 25, he said.

A tour "will solidify for them whether demolition or solidifying and repurposing the building is an option one way or the other,” Frietag said. “The only intent is to help them make a more informed, better decision. Right now, they can only see it from the outside.”

A city agenda for the tour calls the building a “dilapidated, unsafe, abandoned old gas station.”

Staff in April had unveiled a plan to demolishing the building, which officials said would pave the way for future expansion of the police station. Early city estimates for demolition were $35,000.

Officials said the city wouldn't add on to the police station for another 10 or 15 years.

Freitag said in April he believed removing the gas station would show the city is a role model in tearing down blighted properties. Officials said the building has roof leaks and could need $91,000 in repairs, according to city estimates.

The council put the brakes on staff's demolition plan, with members deciding instead to give interested private parties until Sept. 1 to work out a plan with the city to repair and save the property.

Citizens For Preservation, a local group that has made bids in the last few years to find a new use for the building or forge plans to repair it, has met with city officials twice since April, group member Jackie Wood said. 

The group plans to meet with council members before the city recommends action Aug. 25. Wood said the group would recommend its own proposal to potentially rehab and save the building.

Wood acknowledged the building needs roof and other repairs, but she said it's not clear whether it would need a full roof replacement. She said the group considers the building to have local historical value.

“We'd like to keep the history there," she said. "It makes an objective statement for the automobile industry. It speaks to our history as a former GM plant town."

Last updated: 4:41 pm Saturday, August 9, 2014

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