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Government
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Plan commission OKs ‘flexible’ preliminary development plan for GM site

JANESVILLE

Doug Marklein wrote “flexible” in his plan commission meeting notes about 10 times, he said.

That was the word commissioners and officials involved in planning the redevelopment of the former General Motors assembly plant site used to describe its preliminary development plan, which the commission approved Monday night.

The plan passed by a 6-1 vote with commissioner Andrew Udell abstaining. It will be used as a road map and marketing tool for the new Centennial Industrial Park, Planning Director Duane Cherek said.

William Mears of Coldwell Banker Commercial piqued the interest of the couple dozen people at the meeting when he said he has talked to a number of parties interested in building on the site.

Joe Stadelman of architecture firm Angus Young Associates said there is “a lot of interest” in the site.

Nothing in the preliminary plan is set in stone, said Jacob Blue, an architect with Ayres Associates of Madison. It includes zoning for industrial, residential and mixed uses. Changes to the plan will be dictated by who might be interested in building at the site and future requests from the plan commission, Blue said.

All proposals for development will have to go to the plan commission for approval after public hearings, Cherek said. That requirement is part of the city’s efforts to make redevelopment a “transparent” process, plan commission chairperson Kathy Voskuil said.

The city council in 2016 approved creating an overlay district at the site to ensure all development would have to be approved by the city.

City staff gave the commission six things to consider before voting to approve the plan. Those were:

  • Whether to eliminate a proposed rail spur that would extend into an area of the project marked for mixed use.
  • Whether to change the use of a northwest outlot along Academy Street from light industrial to residential.
  • Whether to restrict or eliminate truck usage on Kellogg Avenue.
  • Landscaping that might be used as a buffer between industrial and residential areas.
  • The potential for an 8-acre parcel on the northwest side of the site that is not owned by Commercial Development Company to be part of future redevelopment.
  • Whether all future redevelopment will adhere to the city’s design standards.

Cherek said city staff made those suggestions to spur discussion and that staff members supported the plan with or without those changes.

Commissioners said the plan’s flexibility and the ability for the commission to review and demand changes to development proposals were reasons not to add many restrictions to the preliminary development plan.

Angela Major 

Excavators sit near piles of debris from the former General Motors plant Monday in Janesville. The Janesville Plan Commission on Monday approved a preliminary development plan for the former plant site.

Two amendments were made to the plan before approval. The first was to reclassify the Academy Street outlot, designated as W1 in the plan, as mixed use.

Planners considered marking the W1 lot as residential but were concerned about contamination that might be found in environmental studies because the site was once used for wastewater treatment, Blue said.

Changing the designation to mixed use allowed for more flexibility.

The second amendment allowed the provisions of the overlay district to be included in the plan’s appendix.

The commission extensively discussed proposed rail features on the site but made no changes to those proposals

Access to rail lines makes the site attractive for industrial redevelopment, Blue said, but Mears of Coldwell Banker said he has talked to some people who would not be looking to use them.

Cherek said the owner of the property along Cherry Street adjacent to the site will likely be interested in selling the property, which would ensure continuity of the industrial park.

Commissioners said they were not comfortable including that land in the plan so long as it is owned by another party.


Local
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Maurer's Market on Janesville's east side to close

JANESVILLE

Maurer’s Market on Janesville’s east side will shut its doors, the owners announced Monday, closing the book on a neighborhood grocery that had been open only about a year and a half.

Janesville Economic Development Director Gale Price said Maurer’s Market owner Jeff Maurer told the city via email Monday that the store was closing.

Price said Maurer did not give an exact date for the closure, but his email indicated that the store has suspended ordering new stock and that Maurer’s Market plans to liquidate existing stock.

“The email this morning from Mr. Maurer said the store is not profitable, and he is going to initiate closing the store. He was informing the employees this morning (Monday) and proceeding with liquidating the stock and selling the equipment,” Price said in an interview Monday evening.

Maurer did not immediately return messages left by a Gazette reporter seeking comment Monday evening.

In June 2018, Maurer’s Market bought the supermarket at 2822 E. Milwaukee St. that had operated for years as Daniels Sentry East. The store became a Maurer’s Market IGA under Maurer’s ownership and reopened in August 2018.

At the time the business was sold, the manager of the Sentry store said he believed Maurer would lay off but then rehire all Sentry employees. But Maurer instead opted to lay off and not rehire about half of the staff.

At the time, Maurer said he believed the IGA could be staffed with fewer people.

In the year and a half since, Maurer’s Market began offering online grocery orders and, more recently, phone-in grocery orders and home delivery for elderly residents who can’t drive.

Maurer told The Gazette that phone-in grocery ordering wasn’t expected to be a cash cow for the store, but he said it would provide a service that he didn’t believe existed in Janesville.

The move to offer phone-in grocery orders came on the heels of intermittent closures of East Milwaukee Street near the Interstate 90/39 overpass as part of the Interstate expansion project.

At the time, Maurer said the store had been weathering street tear-up and closures, but the phone-in grocery service wasn’t a reaction to street work.

It wasn’t clear Monday how many employees would be affected by the store’s closure or what might happen to the 28,000-square-foot store once it is emptied of stock and equipment.

The building is listed in city property records as being owned by Daniels Investments LLC, a part of Daniels Sentry, even though Maurer’s Market owned and operated the business inside.

Maurer also owns and operates Maurer’s Market in Wisconsin Dells.

Price said the city’s economic development office has had conversations with Maurer about the store’s performance.

He said Maurer had spoken with Rock County officials about the potential for a new grocery store on the south side, near property the county now owns.

Earlier this year, the county bought the former Pick ‘n Save on Center Avenue and plans to turn it into social service offices. Pick ‘n Save had abruptly closed in November 2017.

Price said Maurer had been working on a market analysis of prospects for a grocery on the south side. Price said that plan appears to have fallen apart in tandem with Maurer’s decision to close Maurer’s Market.

“The long and short of it is that in his email today, he said the decision to close the east-side store eliminated any opportunity for him to participate on the south side,” Price said.

Price said Maurer wrote in the email that the lack of a grocery store on the east and south sides of Janesville creates a “significant food desert” in both areas.

“I don’t disagree,” Price said. “But I think one of the challenges is people are very loyal to Woodman’s on the north side. They’ll price shop and take a trip up to the north side. That doesn’t bode well for little neighborhood grocery stores that serve segments of the market that might not be quite as affluent or mobile.”

This article has been amended from an earlier version to accurately reflect statements made by city of Janesville Economic Development Manager Gale Price. Price said an email from Maurer's Market indicated the company's store on Janesville would be closing because the owner considers the store "not profitable."


Obituaries and death notices for Dec. 17, 2019

Frederick E. Bradley

Lucy T. Conway

Deann Marie Gillespie

Barbara J. Kohl

William “Willie” Charles Lynn