Jake Magee

WATCH: Janesville's downtown Town Square taking shape

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Jake Magee
Thursday, August 3, 2017

JANESVILLE—Janesville's vision for a Town Square that will be a cornerstone for downtown revitalization is starting to take shape.

At a glance, one can spot where the floating dock, great lawn, elevated overlook and water fountain will be, near the intersection of South River and East Court streets. Most of the tiered stone steps that lead down to the Rock River are already in place, said Matt McGrath, city engineer.

The work is part of ARISE, the city's effort to rejuvenate the downtown area. Work kicked off earlier this year when the city demolished the parking plaza that stretched over the Rock River.

Crews first set up a coffer dam in the water along the river wall. By pumping water out of the area, they could work in dry conditions as they cut part of the wall, McGrath said.

During the project, they found unexpected damage along the river wall but were able to fix it easily, he said.

The coffer dam was removed after the river wall work was finished. It cost the city thousands of dollars a week to run the equipment that pumped water out of the area, McGrath said.

Crews also dug out the area that will become a plaza of tiered slabs leading to the river's edge. The north and west sides of the plaza will have steps, and the south side will have a ramp for wheelchairs, McGrath said.

Stones that will become plaza seating are in place. Smooth slabs will cover the stones, and their undersides will be illuminated, he said.

The area will flood occasionally when the Rock River is high, but the plaza was built with that in mind, McGrath said.

To the plaza's south will be an elevated outlook area where residents can watch the river. Its walls have already been built, complete with a carving of Janesville's signature tree logo.

To the west will be a great lawn with grass and landscaping. Between the lawn, plaza and overlook will be a walkway with benches, McGrath said.

An interactive water fountain will be installed in the northwest corner of the area. It will feature a 9-foot-tall sculpture that lights up and various water jets residents can activate and play with, he said.

Forward Janesville donations are paying for the fountain, and officials have said it will be in by September. The area Wednesday was covered by a pile of dirt.

Next year, the city will build a water basin to catch the fountain and stormwater runoff, McGrath said.

Forward Janesville is trying to raise money to build a pedestrian bridge over the river where the parking deck once stood, officials have said.

The construction costs for the southwest quadrant total about $1.2 million. Work is expected to wrap up in mid- to late September, McGrath said.

Improvements to the northwest quadrant and the east side of the Town Square are planned for next year. Court Street also will be converted to two-way traffic around that time.

Future projects include replacing the Milwaukee Street bridge, converting South River Street into a festival street and rehabilitating Milwaukee Street west of the bridge.

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