Owners might demolish building over proposed historic district

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011
— Three businessmen might tear down a historic building downtown, and one said they are making the plans because of a proposed historic overlay district.

Terry Donaldson, who owns 115 E. Court St. with Norm Weitzel and Fred Fox, said he and Fox do not want to own a building in an overlay district.

The brick building recently housed four tenants but is vacant after the tenants were forced to move.

The building is a contributing structure in the South Main Street Historic District. It was built around 1907 as one of the city's first apartment buildings.

The men have a demolition permit that would allow them to tear down the building starting Monday.

Donaldson disagrees with a proposed ordinance heading to the Janesville City Council on Aug. 8. The ordinance would require the owners of historic properties to get prior approval from the historic commission when doing exterior work requiring a building permit.

That work includes changing windows, siding and demolition.

The commission could deny requests they deem historically inappropriate. Members have stressed that they would continue—as they have done in the past—to work with property owners to find solutions that satisfy all parties.

Property owners could appeal the commission's decision to both the plan commission and the council.

Weitzel said he disagreed with his partners about tearing down the building but was outvoted.

"I see the rentable space there," Weitzel said. "I could really care less about historical."

Donaldson said he wants to tear it down because it falls in the proposed overlay district. The district "puts shackles on business people," Donaldson said.

"We have too many decisions made for us by government officials now," he said. "If they think they're going to create jobs with that, they're crazy."

All agree that the building is in good condition.

Tearing it down would save on insurance, taxes and maintenance, Donaldson said.

The men also own One Parker Place a half block east. That building is not in the proposed overlay district.

"If they stick us in there, we'd probably tear it down, too," Donaldson said.

Donaldson said he hoped the displaced tenants would move into One Parker Place, but only two did so.

When asked what they might do with the vacant land, Donaldson said: "We need the parking worse than a building there."

Weitzel said former City Manager Steve Sheiffer promised the men parking when they bought One Parker Place years ago. Instead, they've had to buy parking themselves.

"We spent a lot of money securing parking, and we're not happy one darn bit," Weitzel said.

Gale Price of the city's community development department said the space at 115 E. Court might accommodate 18 parking spots.

City planners think that area of the downtown has enough parking because a city parking ramp is less than two blocks away.

"There is obviously a perception among (One Parker Place) tenants that the parking is not close enough," Price said.

"You can't expect parking at the front door in an urban environment," Price said. "And if you compare where you park in the downtown to where you end up in the parking lot at Sam's or Walmart, it's a similar distance."

Last updated: 5:48 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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