Rock County cleared the final hurdle for buying the old Pick ‘n Save building on Janesville’s south side Thursday after the county board authorized the purchase, paving the way for the deal to be finalized in June.
County board members voted 26-0 to buy the $4.4 million property, which includes the former grocery store and adjoining parking lots. Members also voted to retain Venture Architects as the design firm on the development for $796,000 and authorized the initial $5.2 million borrowing resolution.
County officials unveiled plans to buy the former grocery store earlier this month. The plan calls for shifting all human services department programs in Janesville to the building by late 2020 or early 2021.
About $17 million is budgeted for remodeling, engineering, parking lot resurfacing and buying furniture. In all, the move is expected to cost $20.5 million.
Much of the county’s human services offices are in the health care center, a 47-year-old former psychiatric hospital on County F near the jail. That building, a 222,000-square-foot behemoth, has three times the amount of necessary space, officials say, and an entire floor is empty. Officials have said the building likely will be vacated and could be razed in 2024.
Other human services offices are located at the Rock County Job Center and in separate facilities on Franklin and Court streets in Janesville. Offices at the Eclipse Center in Beloit will remain where they are.
Officials have said all offices at the Rock County Job Center could move to the new complex, including the state’s Southwest Wisconsin Workforce Development Board. Such a shift would leave the job center vacant, and officials have said they could eventually sell it.
Director of Human Services Kate Luster has praised the consolidation plan, saying combining all human services programs in Janesville in a one-stop-shop complex will be a boon for clients and employees and foster a more hospitable climate.
Developer Jim Grafft and his family bought the property in January 2018 for about $2.9 million. The 129,000-square-foot structure has been vacant since Pick ‘n Save moved out in November 2017.
Pick ‘n Save’s departure triggered outcry from south side residents, many of whom have clamored for a grocery store in the area.
Before the board’s meeting Thursday, Rock County Administrator Josh Smith told the finance committee the building was valued at $4.24 million. Rock County Facilities Management Director Brent Sutherland said the building’s interior has been completely stripped, including the freezers and coolers.
Venture Architects is charging 5.85% of the cost of construction, shy of the 7% to 8% fee projected in the county’s facilities master plan.
Design and development are slated for August to September, with bidding to open in early 2020. Venture Architects representatives wrote in a memo to the county that the schedule could be “accelerated.”
That could mean bidding could begin this year, according to the memo. Such a move is “aggressive but possible,” and the firm will work with the county to “determine how to best fulfill that goal without compromising design and document quality,” according to the memo.
Officials said board members could vote on the final borrowing resolution for the purchase this year.
Consolidating the human services departments in a new building is part of the master plan, which Venture Architects unveiled in September. The plan details about $150 million in facilities upgrades over the next eight years.
Other recommendations include building a new Huber dormitory, expanding the Rock County Sheriff’s Office and Rock County Jail, and investing nearly $15 million in the Rock County 4-H Fairgrounds.