JANESVILLE — Conventional wisdom says there’s not a whole lot that city government can do to bring a grocery store back to Janesville’s southside after Pick ‘n Save closed in 2017.

They said the same thing about Madison’s south Park Street when Pick ‘n Save announced it would close amid redevelopment of the area.

But recently, the city of Madison announced an agreement to bring a new grocery store to the city’s southside.

In Janesville, the arrival of another grocery store on the northside has sparked renewed debate about the southside’s lack of grocery options.

Now, city leaders can look to Madison for a blueprint to not only bring in a new grocery store, but to spur new housing and economic development.

That’s the topic of a special forum beginning at 6 p.m., Wednesday, April 19, at UW-Rock County sponsored by the Rock County Civics Academy.

“Southside renewal — it’s more than just a grocery store,” takes place in the commons of Allen Hall, 2909 Kellogg Avenue, Janesville. Enter off of Kellogg Avenue.

The program is open to the public to attend and submit questions, and will stream live on the Civics Academy’s Facebook page.

A tentative list of panelists include:

Danel Rolfs, Community Development Project Manager for Madison’s Economic Development Division

Kristie Maurer, Maurer’s Urban Markets

Gale Price, VP of business development at Blackhawk State Bank and former city of Janesville Economic Development Director

Heather Miller, Janesville City Council member

Recently, the city of Madison and various partners have successfully found a solution to the impending loss of a full-service grocery store on Madison’s southside using creative financing and a unique partnership with Maurer’s Urban Markets.

Panelists at the Janesville forum will explore whether or not a similar partnership could be replicated to address remarkably similar issues on Janesville’s southside.

Those issues include not only a grocery store, but the need for housing of all types and revitalization of declining commercial areas in a part of the city that has seen significant growth in the southside industrial park.

There appears to be growing interest among Janesville elected leaders as well.

Southside redevelopment recently came up at a candidate forum sponsored by the Rock County Civics Academy.

At the time, candidate Richard Neeno said he would like to see the same effort that went into downtown be given to other parts of the city.

“I think some sort of project on the south side would be brilliant and long overdue,” Neeno said.

Miller also said south side development is long overdue, including a long sought-after grocery store.

“We need to start focusing on where we need to put the next big effort,” Heather Miller said. “I think the south side is long overdue for a grocery store.”

Michael Jackson noted the booming industrial development on the city’s south side and said it will bring in new businesses and housing.

“I really want to see the south side addressed,” he said. “I’m almost to the point where I could say I’m passionate about it.”

The key, Jackson said, is the revitalization of Center Avenue with a new, quality grocery store.

Currently Daniel’s Sentry is the only full-service grocery store south of the Rock River in Janesville.

That’s in stark contrast to the Highway 14 corridor on Janesville’s North side that features:

  • Hy-Vee
  • Festival
  • Woodman’s
  • Aldi
  • Schnuck’s
  • Walmart
  • Target

The Madison grocery store will lease space in the Truman-Olson mixed-use development that combines 150 affordable housing units with a 24,600 square foot space for a grocery store.

The Rock County Civics Academy is a non-partisan, good-government watchdog group that provides resources to people thinking about running for local office, as well as exploring local issues facing elected officials.

By Dan Plutchak

Dan Plutchak of Janesville is founder of the Janesville News Report