Revitalizing Janesville’s neighborhoods and riverfront core

CLIENT: City of Janesville, Wisconsin, ARISE Rock River Renaissance

DATES: 2000 – 2019

NEED: The city aimed to reimagine its downtown and consider its future economic opportunities. Known as a manufacturing center and particularly hard-hit by recent decline, Janesville has faced significant economic challenges in the last decade. The City has worked hard to maintain a focus on its sizable downtown and central city neighborhoods–understanding that overall health of the City has hinged, in large part, to the health of its core.

V&A ROLE AND PROJECTS: Vandewalle & Associates has helped lead several planning initiatives in the City to help respond to these and other trends, and position itself for future opportunities:

  1. Historic Preservation Planning and Downtown Design Guidelines, In 2000, Vandewalle & Associates completed both a downtown historic preservation plan and downtown design guidelines manual for the City of Janesville. The Historic Preservation Plan categorized all downtown buildings, and designated preservation districts around concentrations of landmark and resource buildings. The Downtown Design Guidelines manual assists City decision makers in evaluating future requests for façade improvement grants and reviewing development proposals. The illustrated guidelines include approaches for both new development and rehabilitation, presented by development type and by design element.
  2. Downtown Vision and Strategy. Beginning in 2007, Vandewalle & Associates was hired to develop an overarching vision for downtown Janesville and an action plan detailing how to get there. This effort served to align, not replace, past planning efforts, and to identify priority projects. The outcome was a strong vision for the downtown; an analysis of key redevelopment, reuse and preservation sites; downtown circulation recommendations; detailed concepts for three redevelopment sites; and other detailed recommendations. It also included a short-term implementation strategy and developed a public-private structure to help facilitate redevelopment.

3. Downtown Riverfront Redevelopment Strategy and Implementation. In 2015 City of Janesville completed a two year planning process working with Vandewalle & Associates to revitalize the downtown. ARISE Rock Renaissance Redevelopment and Implementation Strategy laid out a number of redevelopment projects including Main Street Riverfront, Festival Ground area and Traxler Park expansion, Milwaukee Street Commercial, Riverfront Housing, Downtown Campus/Neighborhood Area, and the centerpiece of the riverfront revitalization: Janesville’s new Town Square. The Town Square is designed to be a catalyst for the other redevelopment and revitalization efforts, bringing Janesville’s focus back to the Rock River. Beginning with removal of a parking plaza that spans the river, the Town Square includes a new great lawn and central river feature, gathering spaces for events, an expanded riverwalk, pedestrian bridge, and other walking and biking

IMPACT AND RESULTS: The long-term relationship between the City of Janesville and Vandewalle & Associates has allowed the City to set a clear vision, prioritize redevelopment to achieve that vision, find the funding, and to take the steps necessary to implement the recommendations and strategies. Most of the projects have now been implemented.