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Plan to preserve, renovate Janesville building lacks money

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
June 29, 2009
— An effort continues to preserve one of the oldest buildings in the city. A major obstacle remains: money.

Community activist and realtor Andreah Briarmoon held an open house Sunday at the old Case Feed building at 922 Rockport Road.


Briarmoon pitched an idea that the building become a community center and anchor for the low-income neighborhood, providing services such as computers for children, day care and lawnmowers for those who don’t own their own.


Fewer than 10 people entered the building during the first 90 minutes of the event. Some signed a petition asking that the building be preserved.


Tammy Cavallino, a tenant in a Briarmoon-owned building, was helping with the open house.


“I thought it would be nice to keep all this historic stuff in the town, for the next generation, like her,” Cavallino said, pointing to her 10-year-old daughter, Brittany. Brittany was taking photos of the building for a 4-H project.


As previously reported, Briarmoon is the agent for the sale of the property, owned by North American Companies of Madison. Briarmoon said the company has accepted an offer from Gideon Ngobi of Janesville to buy the two joined buildings that were originally built as a grocery store around 1879.


The sale price is about $89,000, Briarmoon said.


Plans are to renovate and rent out an upstairs apartment as subsidized housing and to use the eastern building for cold storage. Income from the storage facility could leverage a loan to help restore the building, Briarmoon said.


Briarmoon also talked of applying for a restoration grant.


The building to the west, closest to the corner of Center Avenue and Rockport Road, would serve as a cooperative office building for small-business people who would pay $300 a month, Briarmoon said.


The buildings are decrepit and decaying, with buckled floors, peeling paint and broken pipes. The city on May 15 ordered the owner to secure the structure by boarding it up, replacing broken windows and repairing brick.


The city eventually sent workers to board up broken windows and secure the doors, Briarmoon said.


The city on June 25 issued an order forbidding human occupancy of the eastern building.


In the western side on Sunday, hand-printed signs said “View building at your own risk.”


Briarmoon previously was denied a request for $450,000 from the city’s Community Development Authority. Now, she will ask the CDA for $35,000 to pay the city back for securing the building and costs associated with the sale.


Briarmoon said Ngobi has offers from three contractors to restore the buildings.


The CDA meets July 15 at City Hall, and the request is on the agenda, Briarmoon said.


Briarmoon noted the city recently spent $300,000 to buy and demolish an old apartment building at the corner of Court Street and Parker Drive.


The site is now a vacant lot where grass grows and could be used for future parking.


“We spent $300,000,” Briarmoon said. “We should have something to show for it besides grass.”



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