A plan to build two apartment buildings on Janesville’s south side could alleviate the city’s low rate of rental vacancies.

Mark Robinson of Cajun Properties has applied to rezone a parcel at 2338 Center Ave. from business to residential to build two eight-unit apartment buildings.

The buildings would have a townhouse look, Robinson said.

Half the units in each building would have two bedrooms and one bathroom. The other half would be three-bedroom, one-and-a-half bathroom units. Each would have an attached, one-car garage, Robinson said.

Rents for the two-bedroom apartments would be about $800 to $900. The three-bedroom units would be in the $1,100 range, he said.

Robinson said there’s a need for middle-class rental units, especially on the south side near industrial developments such as Dollar General.

“People are making much more than minimum wage,” Robinson said. “I think what we’re trying to do is fill a need where people don’t want just the standard two-bedroom apartment.”

“There’s a need for multi-family rental housing in the community, so from that perspective, any additional units we could get built would be a positive thing,” said Brian Schweigl, associate city planner.

Low interest rates make it an ideal time to develop, Robinson said.

The parcel in question is now a vacant home and four storage buildings Robinson has owned since 2008. He would demolish them all to make room for the apartments, Robinson said.

“It’s underutilized land,” he said.

The house would be donated to the Janesville Fire Department for a controlled training burn, Robinson said.

The area is next to two other buildings Robinson owns that were most recently used as indoor flea markets. Those structures will remain.

Because Robinson wants to put up two buildings, the Janesville Plan Commission must approve the development. The matter would then move on to the Janesville City Council, tentatively scheduled for public hearing on April 23, according to Schweigl’s memo to the council.

In October, the commission shot down developer Bill Ranguette’s attempt to build high-end apartments adjacent to the Briar Crest neighborhood on the city’s north side. Ranguette wanted to build 19 five-unit apartment buildings on a 10-acre parcel off East Rotamer Road west of Briar Crest.

Neighbors pushed backed against the plans, claiming they wanted houses, not apartments, built nearby.

“I wouldn’t anticipate that you’ll see anything like that here,” Schweigl said.

This development is a different situation, Robinson agreed. There is a low-density residential area to the east, commercial development to the north and south, and vacant farmland is to the west, Schweigl said.

West of the farmland is a residential area Robinson developed, he said.

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