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Condos take up residence in downtown Janesville

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JAMES P. LEUTE
October 14, 2009
— Quality housing is imperative to revitalize downtown Janesville, study after study has suggested.

A Janesville couple are ready to test that theory. Long involved in downtown rental apartments, they are shifting gears to see if affordable condominiums will catch the eyes of young professionals who want to live where they work.


Bob and Nancy Kimball recently put a two-bedroom condo on the market on East Milwaukee Street, about 75 yards from the busy Main-Milwaukee intersection.


The 900-square-foot condo, which offers off-street parking, is a first for the downtown market, said Christine Moore, managing director of the Janesville Design & Development Center.


If the condo sells, it could be the first of many, as the Kimballs have 11 other units that they plan to convert to condos in the building. Once known as the Peters Building, the Kimballs have renamed it One Seventeen East Condominiums.


"We really don't know if there's a market for it," Nancy Kimball said. "We think there is, but you really don't know until you try."


The Kimballs have owned the building for 20 years and have traditionally rented the upstairs apartments on a short-term basis. Past tenants include bank presidents, health care and auto industry executives.


The condo lists for $93,000.


"They've got a really good price point," said Gale Price, the city's manager of building and development services. "At just under 1,000 square feet, you can't build for that.


"It's a heckuva opportunity for young professionals who want to live downtown, build up some equity and not piddle money away on rent."


The Kimballs have researched the condo conversion for 10 years and have seen it work in other downtowns.


One unit is for sale, and three others are close to being ready. Given some early success, the Kimballs plan nine two-bedroom condos upstairs and three one-bedroom units at street level.


"They're taking a cautious approach, and that's probably wise," Price said. "It's not just because of the market for downtown condos, it's real estate in general."


Moore said the Kimballs' condos offer a great opportunity to bring young professionals downtown.


"Getting young professionals to live downtown sets the stage for a ripple effect," she said. "Retail, restaurants and entertainment businesses will see that there's a market already there that they can draw from.


"It's a real boon to downtown businesses to have people living downtown."


When Moore tours others successful downtowns, a common denominator is a mix of residential options.


"It's a very basic part of any downtown revitalization," she said. "A lot of people see the potential for these kinds of investments, but they then hang back because they don't want to be the first.


"I give the Kimballs a lot of credit for being the first to go to condos."



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