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Consultant hired, city gears up to create riverfront vision

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Marcia Nelesen
December 28, 2013

JANESVILLE--Many ideas have been thrown around about how to bring new life to Janesville’s riverfront and downtown area.

Now, the city wants to see what might stick.

“Really, it’s to bring some of that to life, to find out how we bring a vision to life,” said Ryan Garcia, economic development coordinator for the city.

A public meeting Thursday, Jan. 30, will kick off efforts by the Downtown Revitalization Committee and city staff to “dig a little deeper” into riverfront plans and ideas put forward in the past.

Garcia said the results of the new effort would be “a playbook for action, a menu that we can put in front of developers and people with vision.”

“We’re not looking for a plan,” Garcia said. “We’re looking for some action steps.”

The effort will identify potential uses of six priority areas, improvements that are needed and their possible effects on surrounding areas. Possible financing also will be discussed.

SAA Design Group of Madison, a landscape architect planning and civic engineering firm, was hired as a consultant on the project with a $200,000 grant from the federal Environmental Protection Agency. SAA will involve the public and gauge how residents feel about the riverfront and downtown areas.

“What kind of memories they have, what spaces are sacred to them … and to think about what’s missing,” Garcia said.

The company will meet with landowners and developers in small groups. The group hopes to deliver its results to the council in fall 2014.

The six priority areas identified through a study funded by a brownfield grant two years ago are:

--The existing parking deck above the Rock River between Court Street and Milwaukee Street, including properties on Main, River and Milwaukee streets, including the former Plaza Furniture site.

--The old jail site on South Water Street from Court Street to Hedberg Public Library.

--North Main Street from Centerway to Traxler Park, including the Adams & Sons Roofing property recently bought by the city.

--The riverwalk and west side of North Main Street from Milwaukee Street to Centerway.

--The north side of West Milwaukee Street from Rock River to Franklin Street.

--The west side of South River Street from West Court Street to West Van Buren Street.

The new effort will identify the types of businesses and private development that could be attracted to and supported by redevelopment of these six sites. The consultant would use the expertise of local real estate agents and developers to determine that information.

The company also will prepare a variety of design concepts for each of the six areas and illustrate different approaches for reuse.

According to a city memo, goals are to:

--See the big picture. The revitalization committee considers the central business district the “crossroads of the community” and the Rock River the foundation of the community’s natural environment, historic economy and identity. The city must continue to improve the water, expand open space, and create new commercial and residential options.

--Build on past work. Incorporate past plans so as not to duplicate work but to provide a “greater depth of thinking and definition to the planning frameworks already in place.”

--Prepare priority area redevelopment plans concurrently, as each of the six priority sites would benefit from improving adjacent land uses.

--Engage the public in the planning process, including listening sessions and a website.

--Promote green and healthy design with principles that consider physical activity, air and water quality, stress relief, the social fabric and education and employment.

--Advance heritage and preservation.



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