The city of Janesville turned into the bad guy Tuesday after it started demolition on the dilapidated piece of downtown property known as 13 N. Main St.
Preservationists made an impassioned plea to the city to delay its tear-down plans, while the owner claims the city is difficult to work with.
He noted the city gave him a raze-or-repair order that cited “numerous code violations” but didn’t list the codes he violated. Well, there’s no need for a list to recognize the lack of a wall on the building’s backside as the most pressing concern. A 5-year-old could have pointed out that violation.
The fact is the city exercised substantial patience and gave the owner, Bruce Monson, opportunity to fix the property himself or sell it to somebody with deep enough pockets to do the job.
In their column on this page last week, Deb Wood and Jackie Wood, two people dedicated to preserving the downtown, asked the city to give Monson more time to figure out a solution.
The trouble is, Deb and Jackie also asked the city to delay the demolition in March 2018, and the city did just that. The two even acknowledged in their Dec. 11 column that “Building Director Tom Clippert has worked diligently to support a redevelopment plan.”
But Monson didn’t meet the city’s requirements.
The city has more than the fate of 13 N. Main St. to consider. For too long, the city allowed downtown properties to crumble, and only in the past few years has the city started to crack down. Further delaying the raze-or-repair order for 13 N. Main St. would send the wrong message to other property owners, who should be doing more to fix up their buildings.
It’s time to let 13 N. Main St. go to preservation heaven, or whatever the afterlife is for old buildings.
Mourn this loss for a day or two but don’t despair. We refer to 13 N. Main St. as 13 N. Main St. because nothing happened there significant enough to identify the building by something other than its street address.
The Monterey Hotel and the Lincoln-Tallman House—these are examples of historical buildings remembered for what they represented in the past. We can’t say the same for 13 N. Main St.
Some people say demolishing 13 N. Main St. will leave a “hole in the streetscape,” but that’s such a negative spin. We prefer to call it a “pocket park,” and perhaps it could serve someday as an outdoor dining area for an adjacent restaurant. We don’t know this site’s future, but it doesn’t have to be gloomy.
We do know that the status quo is not working. Having a hollowed-out building with its backside exposed toward the Rock River reflects poorly on downtown revitalization efforts. Nobody wants to look at that, and we applaud the city for taking it out.