Redevelopment of downtown Janesville building planned
JANESVILLE Travis O'Connell's college degree is in chemistry, but he's always had an affinity for buildings—particularly historic buildings.
O'Connell and his wife, Jennifer, hope to mix up something good as they redevelop a nearly 16,000-square-foot building at 400 W. Milwaukee St. in Janesville.
Built in 1895 for just over $30,000, the red brick building was the home of Janesville's first YMCA until about 1924.
Over the decades, it housed a storage company, a car dealership and a car rental business. It held a music business and auto repair shop before its last tenant, Custom Arrow Archery Lanes.
The O'Connells bought the two-story building nearly a year ago. It has since been gutted, and the couple has started down the path toward city approval of their renovation plans.
O'Connell said the building would house two of his businesses: Legendary Construction and Legendary Motorsports. Beyond that, his plans call for space for six to eight other tenants on the first floor.
As a building that previously held auto-related businesses, it's rare because it has an inside ramp that allows vehicle access to the second floor.
O'Connell said he hopes to start renovations in the next couple of months as seasonal construction work winds down for his contracting business.
O'Connell, the son of well-known Janesville real estate agent Anda O'Connell, said his company does a lot of residential and commercial work, but he really enjoys the work when it involves older buildings.
He's got that with 400 W. Milwaukee St.
"It's a vision thing, no question," he said. "My mom is my role model, and her involvement in real estate got me interested.
"I grew up in the Courthouse Hill area and worked on old houses. I love doing that."
O'Connell said he's not certain what types of tenants—other than himself—will occupy the building. He said the spaces would be logical for salons and fitness instructors.
He gave a quick thought to a restaurant and bar, but decided that was a business model best left for others.
With a young family, he prefers the flexibility of being a developer and landlord rather than a restaurateur.
"I grew up in Janesville, moved away and then came back," he said. "We want to continue to invest in Janesville because we think it's a great community and a great place to raise a family."