Town square project likely to be completed in phases; Forward Janesville president concerned

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Elliot Hughes
July 7, 2015

JANESVILLE--One of Janesville's business leaders said he's concerned that if the first piece of the downtown riverfront project is done in phases it would never gain momentum and would fall short of potential.

John Beckord, the president of Forward Janesville, said Tuesday if the town square, the ARISE initiative's first phase, were broken into pieces, it wouldn't become a special hub for Janesville.

"We want to make sure that we're looking at everywhere possible (for funding) to do the entire phase one (town square) project in one phase rather than multiple phases,” he said. “That's how you're going to make the real impression on the community that this is not just another wishful idea."

Beckord's remarks came after city staff, business leaders and designers met as part of a panel working to develop the town square project, part of the larger ARISE initiative to turn two miles of Janesville riverfront into a more vibrant area for the public.

At the meeting, city staff said the town square phase likely will need to be done in pieces as the city pulls together funding.

The town square project involves developing the area between the Milwaukee Street and Court Street bridges. After the parking structure over the river is removed, the city plans to build a footbridge, a large public lawn, a plaza and other amenities.

The parking plaza demolition is estimated to cost around $2 million and is scheduled to happen no later than 2017. Footbridge construction and other features could demand another $2 million. No funding sources have been identified.

At the meeting Tuesday, city staff indicated that some features of the town square plan might not be doable if enough grant funding isn't won.

“If they (the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources) fund the terrace, we're building the terrace,” said Duane Cherek, the city's planning services manager. “If they fund the cantilevered walkway, we're building that."

Beckord said he's worried the city wasn't looking for enough outside funding.

After the meeting, Cherek said the city is considering all sources from public and private entities. He said the city has applied for four grants, “every grant funding opportunity that we've been able to identify.”

Responses won't arrive until October, he said.

Cherek said he understood Beckord's concerns but did not agree that a phased approach to the town square would slow momentum.

“This is a priority that the city administration and city council have identified, and we're moving forward with implementation of that priority accordingly,” he said.

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