Janesville Design & Development Center to close doors
JANESVILLE Six years after debuting as a catalyst for the economic and aesthetic revitalization of the city's downtown, the Janesville Design & Development Center will close at the end of this year.
The board of directors of the Forward Foundation, which is affiliated with Forward Janesville, decided to close the center because of a lack of funding.
Since it was founded in 2004, the center has fostered downtown development ideas and discussions, served as a resource for investors, supported beautification and revitalization projects, partnered with other organizations such as the Downtown Development Alliance and generally promoted the downtown to the community at large.
The design and development center received a significant portion of its funding from the city, previously from federal block grants and most recently from revenues generated by downtown tax incremental financing districts.
Generally, the city contributed about $50,000 to the center each year for marketing and maintenance of a property database.
In preparations of the 2011 city budget, however, it became apparent that only about $40,000 would be available to market all of the city's downtown TIF districts. City Manager Eric Levitt proposed a decrease in the design and development center subsidy from $50,000 to $20,000 for 2011.
That's not sufficient to sustain the operation that requires $50,000 to $60,000 annually, said John Beckord, president of Forward Janesville.
"It's a very difficult financial situation for the city, and I understand that," Beckord said. "We, too, as a nonprofit are facing tight budgets.
"It's certainly disappointing to see this project wind down, but we've always known that it was funded year-to-year. When the recession started to take hold, it became apparent that the downstream signals were not good for the center."
Instead, the city will absorb the center's marketing and database efforts, said Vic Grassman, the city's economic development manager.
Beckord said the design and development center and its director, Christine Moore, were responsible for a variety of activities. They range from high-profile downtown art projects, such as Chevys on the Circuit, to redevelopment plans and projects. The center also was responsible for being the one-stop entry point for anyone interested in downtown Janesville.
"I've never had an employee who owned her area of expertise as she did," Beckord said of Moore. "She has a real passion for the downtown and worked very, very hard at it."
Beckord expects other volunteers to pick up fundraising and promotional efforts.
"The table has certainly been set," he said. "There are many remarkably committed people, and I'd be shocked if they backed away from the downtown."