The plan to bridge the east and west sides of downtown has received a financial boost from the state.
The city of Janesville won a $249,000 stewardship grant from the state Department of Natural Resources to help build the east side town square planned along Water Street.
The city was among 76 applicants vying for $22 million in grant funding for outdoor recreation projects, according to a news release.
The east side town square, to be built between Milwaukee and Court streets, will be a smaller version of the west side town square, which opened last year.
Construction is slated to begin in spring and be finished in early fall 2020, according to a news release.
The Blain Gilbertson Family Heritage Pedestrian Bridge to connect the west and east sides of the river is already under construction and is expected to be finished before the east side town square, public works Director Paul Woodard said.
Preliminary work has begun on a 230-foot pedestrian bridge that will span the Rock River between Court and Milwaukee streets and connect the downtown's east and west sides.
The deck on the pedestrian bridge will be poured next month. Railings and decorative elements will be added in the spring, Woodard said.
Planned features for the east side town square include:
- New lighting.
- A plaza deck area.
- A donor wall.
- Lounge seating.
- Public art locations.
The donor wall, which Woodard described as a large art piece, and shelter will be installed by ARISEnow, a public-private group promoting downtown revitalization.
The DNR grant will cover about one-sixth of the $1.5 million public financial obligation for building the east side town square, Woodard said.
The eastern town square will be smaller than the western one. They could be combined once completed to accommodate large-scale events downtown, Woodard said.
The finished east side town square will add about 40 on-street parking spaces to the city’s stock.
Finding a spot to park in downtown Janesville has gotten more difficult in the past two years, according to a recent parking study.
Parking has been an issue for business owners ever since contractors began using Water Street as the staging area for the pedestrian bridge and Milwaukee Street bridge projects.
Britten Langfoss, owner and general manager of The Venue, said she has made sure clients know about the current lack of parking around the event space, located at Court and Water streets.
The Venue staff has had to get creative to increase available parking. That has included borrowing unused weekend parking spaces from neighboring businesses and providing maps of downtown to their clients ahead of time so they can prepare, Langfoss said.
She expects the parking problem to get worse when work on the east side town square begins. At that point, the little parking she has available behind the building will be gone, and she will have to figure out new solutions for deliveries and mail pickups.
Langfoss said the east side town square will be another positive downtown development once completed.
“I keep saying all we have to do is get through next summer and we will be good,” Langfoss said.
Jackie Wood, manager and part owner of Olde Towne Mall, said she is the most excited she has been about downtown since she purchased the property in the 1980s.
People who work in and visit the mall have gotten used to the parking shortages around the building and have been understanding of construction, Wood said.
Wood does not think the next round of construction will cause any problems for the mall. She is also excited to have an improved view from the mall’s back windows once everything is finished.
“All we looked at before was a big parking lot with cars,” Wood said, referring to the parking deck that once covered most of the Rock River between Court and Milwaukee streets. “Now we will have landscaping and a pedestrian bridge.”