Janesville47.9°

Downtown group talks reinvention

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JAMES P. LEUTE
January 6, 2011
— As a newly unfunded organization, Janesville's Downtown Development Alliance is searching for an identity.

The organization formed in 2002 as a liaison between the city and downtown property owners and businesses. It has been driven in large part by a volunteer board of directors, committees and Forward Janesville's Downtown Design & Development Center.


But the center and its director, Christine Moore, were the recent victims of funding cuts.


"We've had a great run since 2002 and have done a lot of good things for the downtown," said Dave Marshick, the DDA's vice chairman. "Now we're at a point where we have to reinvent ourselves as an unfunded organization and still find ways to be meaningful and productive for the downtown."


The DDA hosted a town hall meeting Wednesday to get ideas from downtown business owners. A variety was offered, ranging from a downtown museum of historical Janesville items to a car show on what was once known as the downtown circuit.


For many, however, the realization was that most require money.


"Everything we talk about is something we can't do because we don't have the money," Janesville resident Ed Pulliam said. "What are we gonna do about that?"


Efforts to form a downtown Business Improvement District have twice failed, and those at Wednesday's session agreed that a third time won't be the charm.


Instead, there was talk of an organization that incorporates all of the structure of a BID without the mandatory taxes and fees charged to property owners within its boundary. Several suggested it might work if there's a plan in place that can demonstrate benefits to the downtown community.


The DDA did announce a significant project for this year.


It will sponsor a grant program to help businesses and property owners improve their properties. Funded by Community Development Block Grant money from the city, the program will offer up to $30,000 in matching grants to one proposal or several that meet specific criteria.


The DDA hopes to select a project or projects by May 1 for work to be completed by year's end.


"We're looking for something that will become a real spark for others in the downtown area," Marshick said.



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