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Former General Motors plant could be razed by late 2018

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Jake Magee
Sunday, October 8, 2017

JANESVILLE—By late 2018, the former General Motors plant could be demolished, City Manager Mark Freitag said.

St. Louis-based business Commercial Development Company on Sept. 1 entered a contract with General Motors to buy the shuttered facility in Janesville.

Commercial Development has until Nov. 15 to learn more about the plant and make its final decision to buy. General Motors then has another 30 days to either accept or decline Commercial Development's offer, Freitag said.

If the deal is sealed, Commercial Development would get to work immediately pulling asbestos out of the facility. The company has indicated that process will take about six months and would finish by about July 1, Freitag said.

If Commercial Development doesn't have a buyer for all or parts of the plant by the time asbestos removal is finished, Commercial Development would begin demolishing the plant next summer, Freitag said.

"They said, 'Unless we have reuse needs of the facility structure, we'll start demolishing and salvaging that plant,'" he said.

The Gazette was not able to reach Commercial Development for comment.

Freitag said Commercial Development told the city that demolition and salvage would take about six months, meaning the plant could be razed by late 2018 or early 2019.

"Six months to find someone who wants to keep part of the building is probably a tight timeline," he said.

Some buildings on the property are in better shape than others. Commercial Development would likely demolish the oldest, most decrepit buildings first, salvaging what it can as it goes, Freitag said.

The city has prepared for the possibility. Last summer, the Janesville City Council updated its demolishing and salvaging ordinances so they could address major, large-scale operations such as the possible razing of GM, Freitag said.

The idea of the site becoming a "clean slate" is "exciting," Freitag said. The site has great infrastructure and a nearby railroad that would be attractive to other developers, he said.

Still, the city doesn't have a preference over demolishing or not.

"We are all about redevelopment. If razing gets us to redevelopment, OK," Freitag said.

At its peak, the GM property was valued at $44 million. Last year, it was $12 million, city assessor Michelle Laube wrote in an email to The Gazette.

Janesville's 2016 total assessed value was $3.9 billion, she wrote.

The site's value after demolition would depend on several factors, such as how much was demolished and if the site would be subdivided after demolition, Laube wrote.

Janesville officials would prefer the parcel have multiple industrial tenants as opposed to the one mega tenant. Multiple tenants would give the community greater long-term security, Freitag said.

Other objectives include making sure tenants fit with adjacent residential neighborhoods and maximize use of infrastructure already in place, Freitag said.

Despite the possibilities, the city is trying not to get ahead of itself. Officials await a mid-December confirmation Commercial Development has bought the site, he said.



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