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Janesville business owners eagerly await parking ramp

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JAMES P. LEUTE
April 7, 2010
— With nearly seven months of sagging sales behind him, tavern owner Matt Schreier is “waiting with bated breath” for a new parking ramp to open in downtown Janesville.

Pat Wygans, another downtown tavern owner, is so looking forward to the May opening of the $4 million parking ramp at the corner of North Parker Drive and Wall Street that he’s planning a party around it.


Wygans owns Wiggy’s right next door to the ramp that has been under construction since September. Schreier owns The Looking Glass, which on North Main Street also abuts the project.


Both said sales have dropped since an 84-stall surface lot was ripped up to make way for the four-level parking ramp that will have nearly 240 spaces.


“I’ve had people tell me they haven’t come down as much because there’s no where to park,” Schreier said.


Wygans said construction workers sometimes stop into his bar after work. He’s routinely pestered them about when the ramp will be done and open.


That will happen May 20, said Brad Cantrell, the city’s community development director.


“It’s on schedule and on budget,” Cantrell said. “There have obviously been some inconveniences during the winter construction, but when it is done it will be a very nice, covered parking ramp that serves the Milwaukee/Main corridor.”


Drivers will be able to enter the structure off either Parker Drive or Wall Street. Cantrell said the ramp includes an elevator and will be brightly lit, features that weren’t part of the parking ramp on the same site that the city demolished in 2000.


A majority of the 239 spaces will be either two-hour or all-day parking. Others will be leased to nearby property owners.


The ramp is one of the city’s commitments to downtown revitalization.


As such, it was a component in Sara Investment Real Estate’s multimillion-dollar decision to buy and renovate the Helgesen Building, which has since been renamed Prospect 101 at the corner of Main and Milwaukee streets.


“Whenever we’re talking with prospective tenants, the first question out of their mouths is always about parking,” said Ryon Savasta of Sara. “That’s particularly true when you’re talking about downtown properties.


“With the new parking ramp, we’ve got a fantastic answer to that question.”


Sara bought the six-story, 52,400 square-foot office building in 2008 and has spent nearly $4 million renovating it.


Savasta said interest in the building is growing weekly, and negotiations are ongoing with two possible tenants.


“That’s what makes the timing perfect,” he said. “The new ramp will open soon, we’re coming out of the slowest leasing time of the year, and we’ve got a renovated building that’s ready to go.”



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