City goals show enthusiasm for downtown

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Marcia Nelesen
Friday, May 30, 2014

JANESVILLE—The city appears to be putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to a five-year strategic plan that shows increased enthusiasm for downtown redevelopment.

If stated goals are achieved, the plan also could mean less red tape and more flexibility for those who want to bring new life to Janesville's riverfront area.

The council earlier this week reviewed its goals and objectives for all areas of the city and considered a “to-do” list to support those goals.

The council will continue its discussions at a meeting June 10.

“When you look at the Rock Renaissance plan, it's getting traction through the community,” said Matt Kealy, a council member who also is on the Downtown Development Alliance.

“The community is embracing the idea of restoring the riverfront and what our downtown could be,” he said.

“It's a new enthusiasm,” Kealy added. “There's a ton of momentum going on in the downtown as far as planning with city staff all the way up to the federal government.”

The draft strategic plan will need council approval. Any expenditures also need future approval.

Many downtown initiatives in the plan would be addressed in the next year or two. Two would focus on zoning and regulations and would do away with red tape, something many downtown occupants and potential developers have consistently complained about—mostly off the record—for years.

The initiatives read:

--Review codes and regulations to see how they might be changed to be less restrictive for holding festivals and events.

--Review, and where appropriate, amend existing zoning and other regulatory codes to provide flexibility and allow mixed uses.

The city's zoning is old, and it is an example of what could be changed, said Ryan Garcia, economic development coordinator.

“There's a lot of schools of thought that (traditional) zoning is an antiquated way of dealing with development,” he said.

Goals related to the downtown area include:

--Create one or more Downtown Business Improvement Districts, something that has been controversial in the past.

--Partner with the Downtown Development Alliance to promote events.

--Promote market-rent housing in and near the downtown.

--Make venues available to the public to host a variety of community events.

--Install cameras visible to the public to promote safety.

--Make design changes to slow traffic and create a pedestrian-friendly environment.

--Help establish common business hours.

--Expand downtown retail, restaurant and service recruitment and attraction efforts.

--Explore the development of a “destination,” such as a conference center or large performance venue.

--Expand loan programs.

--Demolish the former Plaza Furniture building in 2016.

--Lower the Rock River for cleanup.

--Establish a Riverfront Entertainment District.

“This council is committed to the downtown plan,” Kealy said. “We continue to make the investment of staff time to come up with a substantial implementation plan.

“You can see it in black and white on the strategic plan,” he added. “This is showing the ideas and plans are getting traction. It shows it's not just talking.”

Said Garcia: “It certainly feels that … the stars are aligning for us to take this to run with it or kind of miss the boat.”

The strategic plan hints at some future city projects and range from replacing the elevators in City Hall in 2017 to making its own salt brine for winter use.

Some tasks include:

--Build a spashpad in Riverside Park in 2015

--Build a skatepark in 2015.

--Renovate the Lions Beach bathhouse and dredge the beach area in 2017.

--Extend water main to Blackhawk Technical College.

--Extend infrastructure to SHINE Medical Technologies.

--Upgrade the fire training center burn facility.

--Develop a fire department facilities master plan and buy property for Fire Station No. 6 in 2015 and No. 7 in 2016.

--Add a fifth ambulance at Fire Station No. 3 in 2018.

--Hire an emergency management officer in 2015 and create an emergency operations center in 2016.

--Increase the use of the chronic nuisance premises ordinance.

--Develop a vacant building ordinance.


Vision, mission statements OK'd

JANESVILLE--The Janesville City Council at a special meeting this week OK'd city vision and mission statements.

The vision statement is:

“Wisconsin's Park Place: Discover the community of choice to realize life's opportunities.”

Staff, along with feedback from residents, crafted the vision statement.

The vision statement will be found on city communications and possibly even billboards.

One of the city's goals is to establish a consistent image and brand, said Maggie Hrdlicka, management information specialist.

The city's mission statement is:

“To innovatively provide effective municipal services that are responsive to the needs of residents, businesses and visitors and delivered in a reliable, efficient manner in order to sustain Janesville as the community of choice.”

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