Under a new owner and new management, the Cotton Mills Apartments are no longer a thing.
They now have a new name: Signature 23.
Spaulding Group, a Janesville apartment management company, announced Wednesday it has bought the 47-unit Cotton Mills Apartments downtown.
The property, a converted 1870s-era cotton mill at 222 N. Franklin St., is now in line for at least $300,000 in exterior and interior upgrades, said Justin Spaulding, Spaulding Group’s principal.
Spaulding said he plans in October to begin renovating parking areas and landscaping outside the apartments, located on the west side of the Rock River. He said crews this week will begin repainting commons areas in the apartments and freshening up their woodwork and floors.
A number of vacant, high-ceilinged one-bedroom and two-bedroom units will get face-lifts—new lighting and fixtures, new bathroom vanities and some new appliances.
The property’s new name—Signature 23—is based on Spaulding’s jersey number from his football-playing days at UW-Whitewater and the University of Dubuque in the early 2000s.
“This is a fresh start,” said Spaulding, a Milton native. “I look at it as an opportunity to improve downtown Janesville and create a desirable place to live.”
He said his company and investors closed on the property Tuesday, buying it from W.P. Hart Properties of Madison. He declined to disclose the sale price.
The Cotton Mills sale comes as another developer is launching plans to build apartments downtown.
City officials, housing experts and homeless advocates have said Janesville has a housing shortage, particularly in rental properties. The city’s ARISE revitalization strategy hinges in part on having apartments to encourage professionals to live downtown.
The former cotton mill was converted into apartments in the 1980s, but Spaulding said some units and common areas haven’t been renovated in years. Despite the tight rental market, he said the building had a vacancy rate of “20 percent,” with about 12 of the 47 units vacant.
Spaulding said the public-private revitalization that has started to take root downtown led him to believe the time was right to invest in downtown apartments.
“I’d seen what’s going on with the ARISE program and what other entrepreneurs and business people were doing downtown, and I wanted to kind of be a part of it,” he said. “Once I told some others I was putting my money toward it, some other people stepped up as well.”
Spaulding Group owns the 88-unit Whispering Pines apartment complex in Delavan and two apartment complexes in Milwaukee.
Spaulding said his company has notified tenants about the management change. He said upgrades to individual units will be made as the units come open to minimize disruption to tenants.
He said his group seeks to keep rents “affordable,” but he acknowledged that rents likely will increase as leases are renewed to keep the rehabilitation project viable.
Spaulding said rents had been locked in for some tenants for the last four years. Some advertisements for units under the former ownership show rents ranging from $650 to $800 per month—a rate Spaulding said is “under market.”