By Kylie Balk-Yaatenen - August 30th 2023
Discussion about improving Janesville's south side continued at Monday night’s council meeting, but council members are still pushing for more.
The initial discussion about the need for development on the south side was brought up by council members Richard Neeno and Heather Miller. Both expressed concern about wanting to see more focus in the west and south corridors of the city and said discussion on improving the south side has been buried in other plans.
Miller said there should be a separate item added to the city’s strategic plan specifically about improving the southside and westside corridors. That addition to the plan was approved at the Monday night meeting.
Kuborn said in 2021 the city tried to apply for a grant to bring in a grocery store to replace the Pick ‘N Save that closed in 2017. She said this was unsuccessful due to market conditions.
She said that the Pick ‘N Save building was redeveloped into a Rock County Jobs Center and Social Services office.
She also said that a big thing that will help bring businesses to the south side is that Kwik Trip has secured an offer on the former Jobs Center at 1900 Center Ave. She said the current plans are for a full-service gas station.
She said a Kwik Trip could be the catalyst in attracting more businesses and development to the south side.
Reents shared that different road and infrastructure improvements that are planned for the southside. He said over the last seven years over 18% of city street maintenance projects have been focused on the south side and in the next two years 27% will be focused on the south side.
Cherek said much of the current zoning on the south side is for mixed-use development. He said there is a special focus on revitalizing the Center Avenue and corridor by combining vacant and unused parcels.
Miller said that she feels the plan for the south side is “mediocre at best,’’ and “lip serviced.” She said it has been a waiting game in development, until somebody shows interest.
“We wait until somebody comes along and shows some interest,” Miller said.
“It’s a nice presentation and it looks great in a plan but the plan hasn’t been executed, not in 20 years.”
She said that she thinks the city needs to move away from the thinking that the south side is primarily industrial.
“We need to rebrand the south side as a gateway and not just an industrial park,” she said.
She suggests better utilizing the Rock County Airport and working with the county, forging a better partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater at Rock County and listening to community members and asking for their input.
City Manager Kevin Lahner said he thinks the data shows that the city is actively working on supporting the south side.
“I think there are good efforts along different areas,” he said. “The city has a lot of good pieces in place right now.”
Council member Dave Marshick said that he agrees that there is a focus on industry on the south side but the city needs to be able to start somewhere.
He has suggested that much like the revitalization of the downtown, a private group like ARISE partner with the city to work with city to come up with ideas.
“It has to be a commitment on both sides,” he said
Miller told the Gazette in an interview she thinks that this first discussion on Monday lit a fire she is determined to keep burning.
She said a group called SNOW -- South Side Now -- started about 6 months ago talking about needs for the south side. She feels like the city and the group need to unify efforts.
“For the past 20 years plans for the southside have been buried and shelved,” she said. “A community group needs to work with the city to change perception of the south side, it needs to be looked at as a gateway.”
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