Janesville GM plant redevelopment bittersweet for community - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Janesville GM plant redevelopment bittersweet for community

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JANESVILLE (WKOW) -- State and local officials joined developers Wednesday to announce the next step in the redevelopment at the site of the former GM plant in Janesville.

The assembly line closed in 2008, putting thousands out of jobs. Commercial Development Company, known as CDC, bought the site last year. 

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation announced a $500-thousand grant to help CDC tear down the century-old buildings.  

 "This moment represents the future and that is what we are all looking forward to," said Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, at a news conference Wednesday morning.

The grant will help offset the nearly $13 million cost of tearing down nearly five million square feet of buildings. 

Lloyd Duncan spent 40 years working as a maintenance supervisor at GM. But even after the plant closed, he never left. He was brought on to oversee the shutdown and now is working for the developers as they demolish the plant he worked at for decades.

"It was sad, you know," he said about the plant, after the workers all went home. "You come in here and you're used to seeing 2-3,000 people in here, all the people you know. You come in here, it's dark and cold and you're the only one here."

Seeing it all come down is nostalgic, but a sign of the future for him.

"It was good to Janesville for many, many years. Convert it and make it into something else now. GM isn't coming back here," Duncan said.

Sen. Janis Ringhand's husband and grandfather both worked at GM. She wants Janesville area families to thrive, like hers, for another 100 years at the new site.

"Many memories, many family-supporting jobs," Ringhand told 27 News as she watched crews work on demolition. "It's really amazing. We're used to seeing construction happening here, jobs being added, now to see it coming down is a little hard. It's going to be different. It's kind of sad to see, but we know progress has to go on so it's time to move on."

Ringhand hopes the new development will bring good-paying jobs to the community.

Janesville officials say their partnership with developers will bring new opportunities to the city. They're working together to come up with a plan for the site. It could include industrial work, distribution or manufacturing,. The city wants to see a plan that won't impact neighbors. 

"How can we redevelop the site so that we get income, jobs and not negatively impact. We've actually created an overlay district. There are some uses that we have prohibited," said Gale Price, economic development director for the city of Janesville.

Price told 27 News the city hopes to have the developers ideas in the next two months, with a goal of approval by the end of the year. That could mean a completed project in less than three years.

The company's plan to address contamination left from the manufacturing plant is being reviewed by the DNR right now, according to CDC executive vice president John Fonke.

"We recognize that there are potential concerns below grade and so we'll be in a better position to investigate those once the buildings are down and we have a general feel for what's there," Fonke said.

The developers plan to dredge or remove soil in a culvert where contamination was found leading into the Rock River. 

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