We hope Janesville developer Jim Grafft shows urgency in redeveloping the former Pick ‘n Save property his company bought last month.
Grafft has had some downtown successes, notably the 2015 renovation of The Venue at Court and Main streets. The project required obtaining approvals from the city, and Grafft showed his company could accomplish a high-profile project.
Grafft’s daughter, Britten Langfoss, serves as vice president of business development for Grafft Investments, and she was instrumental in opening The Venue. She’s also devoted many hours to downtown-related initiatives, most recently helping to form a new business improvement district.
But Grafft also owns other downtown buildings, notably the Monterey Hotel and has done little with it, despite the occasional pronouncement of good intentions. While Grafft has the right to manage his development business as he sees fit, it doesn’t eliminate the frustration of the community or community leaders when buildings and development plans languish.
Which begs this question regarding Grafft’s purchase of the Pick ‘n Save property on the city’s south side: Will the Grafft that renovated The Venue lead this project or will it be the one that’s managed the Monterey Hotel? We hope it is the former.
South-side residents shouldn’t get their hopes too high for another grocery store at the Pick ‘n Save site. Many of them decried Pick ‘n Save’s decision to close, justifiably upset over the lack of grocery shopping options on the south side.
But expecting Grafft (or any developer for that matter) to return a grocery store to the area is unrealistic.
After all, if Pick ‘n Save couldn’t make the location work, it’s unlikely another chain could succeed there. Profit margins are notoriously tight in the grocery industry—between 1 and 3 percent, analysts say—and the competition turned fierce in Janesville with Festival Food’s arrival in 2015.
If not a grocery store, we sincerely hope Grafft will act quickly to bring something to the Pick ‘n Save property. It’s up to Grafft to figure out what works for that site, and it’s up to the city to help where it can, so long as Grafft is operating within the law and building codes. The city and Grafft have a history of butting heads and blaming each other for project delays.
There is a sense of renewed optimism in Janesville. We hope Grafft and his daughter Britten use their properties and commercial development acumen to bolster that optimism.
We implore both Grafft and the city to bring open minds and a conciliatory attitude to discussions regarding the future of the Pick ‘n Save site, which may require rezoning, depending on Grafft’s plans. Both sides should try to leave behind their previous feuds and accusations. They should have a laser-beam focus on redeveloping that site, getting shovels—or whatever equipment is necessary—into the ground.