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Janesville receives state grant to help fund demolition at former GM site

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State Sen. Janice Ringhand makes remarks June 20, 2018 during the awarding of a grant to fund demolition at the former GM site. WKOW/photo State Sen. Janice Ringhand makes remarks June 20, 2018 during the awarding of a grant to fund demolition at the former GM site. WKOW/photo

JANESVILLE (WKOW) -- The city of Janesville was awarded a $500,000 grant Wednesday to help fund demolition at the former GM Janesville Assembly Plant site.

The award was announced Wednesday by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC).

The Idle Sites Redevelopment Grant will be used to help offset the costs of razing six buildings on the 114-acre assembly plant area, including the 3.9-million-square-foot main plant. Prior to its shuttering nearly a decade ago, the property’s history includes the manufacturing of farm
implements, automobiles, trucks and even artillery shells, according to a WEDC news release.

Demolition is now underway and is expected to be completed by June 2020. Meanwhile, redevelopment and remediation activities are projected to take several years.

The grant is specifically for the assembly plant site, located north of the railroad tracks. The haul-away yard area located south of the tracks also is being redeveloped but is not included in the WEDC grant.

Commercial Development Co., a commercial real estate and brownfield redevelopment company, plans to raze the buildings to make way for about 1 million
square feet of space to be used for future industrial and warehousing end users that require railroad service.

Officials estimate the assembly plant site and haul away yard have the capacity for more than $355 million in new development for projects that could result in up to 700 jobs.

“For nearly a century, the GM plant in Janesville provided family-supporting jobs to thousands of workers in Rock County and the surrounding region, and was a key part of the county’s manufacturing legacy,” said Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, who joined city and CDC officials Wednesday in making the announcement. “The work being done on this site today represents a rebirth of this property and a new future for the community and those who live and work here.”

“The former GM assembly plant represents nearly a century of Janesville history. While its demolition is an emotional event for many of our citizens, we look forward to closing this chapter and progressing towards the future,” said Janesville City Manager Mark Freitag. “This generous grant from WEDC will help move this major project forward. This site holds much potential for the residents of Janesville, and we’re excited to see it put back to good use, bringing jobs to our citizens and progress for the community.”

“The former assembly plant has unique features and logistical attributes that we believe create the potential for significant new development and more jobs for the entire region,” said John Fonke, executive vice president of CDC. “There are many reasons why we’re investing in Janesville, including the strong local workforce, access to infrastructure, transportation and the proximity to great universities.”

James Otterstein, economic development manager for the Rock County Development Agency, said county leaders and the business community are hopeful about the future of the property.

“The property’s railroad and energy infrastructure networks represent value-added assets that will assist with the redevelopment efforts,” said Otterstein.

The redevelopment of the site will take several years and in addition to the demolition, the project will require internal roads and other infrastructure improvements, as well as on-site soil and groundwater testing and remediation.

Various environmental issues have been addressed at the site over the past 20 years; however, city officials say more work is required, including cleanup of the Rock River sediment to restore the water quality in the area.

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