Janesville18.4°

A tale of two downtowns, one plan

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Stacy Vogel
February 19, 2008
— Consultants face a challenge in trying to create a comprehensive plan for Milton: The city has two downtowns.

Milton’s two downtown business districts—commonly referred to as Merchant Row and the Parkview district—grew out of the city’s history as two separate municipalities, Milton and Milton Junction.


“We’re trying to make sense of that historic kind of anomaly in today’s market,” said Mark Roffers, a consultant with Vandewalle & Associates.


The city hired Vandewalle to help create a “Smart Growth” plan that will update city planning efforts from 1999 and 2005. The state requires all municipalities to put a Smart Growth plan in place by 2010.


Wednesday, Vandewalle consultants will meet with the city plan commission and the public to talk about the plan, especially options for the two downtowns.


The city is committed to keeping both districts as part of its identity, Roffers said. But it has different goals for each area.


Merchant Row, on the city’s northwest side, has several opportunities for redevelopment, Roffers said. For example, the city recently bought The Squeeze Inn property, 105 Merchant Row, though it hasn’t yet decided what it will do with it.


The purchase was part of a plan for Merchant Row adopted by the city in 2007.


The city’s other downtown district on the east side grew around Goodrich Park on Janesville and High streets, Roffers said. Roffers envisions the area as a “town square” surrounded by the old Milton College district, the Milton House Museum and several small or even home-based businesses.


The striking architecture of the Milton House and Milton College buildings allows the city to market the area to history buffs and other tourists, Roffers said.


Meanwhile, the state will reroute Highway 26 away from Janesville Street in the coming years, making the Parkview district more pedestrian-friendly, he said.


Wednesday, Roffers wants to talk to the plan commission and community about how to make the two downtown areas distinctive so they’re not competing against each other.


“Part of the notion and part of our thinking regarding the downtowns is let’s figure out unique positions and niches they can serve,” he said.


Vandewalle hopes to have a draft comprehensive plan ready in the next month, Roffers said.


It hopes to discuss the draft with the plan commission in April and hold another public meeting in early summer, he said.


If you go

What: Community visioning workshop with the Milton Plan Commission to discuss the city’s comprehensive plan.


When: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.


Where: The Gathering Place, 715 Campus Lane.



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