One of the first images James Lima saw in his internet research of Janesville was of the former parking plaza that hovered over the Rock River.
Lima was thrilled to learn the plaza is gone and the city is making strides to improve the downtown riverfront, he said to a room of about 50 people at a public presentation Monday.
Lima, president of James Lima Planning and Development in New York City, will spend two days in Janesville talking to residents and city officials and analyzing plans the city has for a new indoor sports complex.
Janesville is making great strides to improve downtown and the city’s riverfront, two areas that can be attractive to businesses looking to move in, Lima said.
In two weeks, he will send the city a memo with his thoughts on how an indoor sports complex might affect the city, he said.
Neighborhood and Community Services Director Jen Petruzzello said Lima’s memo will be shared with the city council and the public to inform future decisions about the proposal.
She also said the indoor sports complex steering committee decided Monday that it would recommend the council approve the proposed Janesville Mall site at the council’s Nov. 11 meeting. That would allow the city to start designing the facility.
The Janesville Foundation gave the city $10,000 to bring Lima to town and get his input. Foundation members approached the city with the idea, Petruzzello said.
Much of Lima’s presentation detailed projects his company has worked on and urban issues it has addressed, including housing, equal access to opportunities for everyone, gentrification and community building.
Some of those at the presentation were confused when Lima did not go over specifics on the sports complex proposal.
Monday was Lima’s first day in Janesville, so he still had much to learn about the project and the city, he said. The purpose of Monday’s meeting was to address and learn from the community, Lima said.
It was unclear before the meeting that his analysis had not begun.
Petruzzello said the indoor sports complex would be one of the largest projects the city has completed in recent history, so it wants the best information possible as it moves forward.
If approved, the design phase would take at least a year. The earliest an indoor sports complex could be operating is fall 2022, Petruzzello said.
The project is expected to be funded by a combination of public and private dollars, but it is not yet known how much the city will commit. A group of people are working now on securing private funding, Petruzzello said.
The recommended Janesville Mall site is estimated to cost $33 million to redevelop.
The city hopes private dollars can cover at least half the design phase costs, Petruzzello said.
A business plan outlining the completed facility’s operating budget is still under development, Petruzzelo said.