Beloit College forges ahead with powerplant project

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Frank Schultz
Tuesday, October 8, 2013

BELOIT—A project that would add a massive building to the Beloit College campus is still a go, the college said in a news release Tuesday.

An architect has been chosen to design the conversion of the former Alliant Energy Blackhawk Generating Station on the Rock River into a college activity and recreation center.

The college also announced an agreement with Alliant that requires the raising of $30 million within three years for the sale of the property to go forward.

The project was first announced one year ago.

The college's trustees on Saturday approved the selection of Chicago-based Studio Gang Architects.

“We're picking up speed,” college President Scott Bierman said in the news release. “Alliant Energy and the college have spent more than a year together investigating this opportunity and its challenges. We have a shared belief in, and enthusiasm for, this project, and we're ready to accelerate and further align our efforts.”

Studio Gang's honors include the 2013 National Design Award in Architecture from the Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. Its work “is designed to resonate with its specific site and culture while addressing larger global themes such as reuse and sustainability,” according to the news release.

College communications director Jason Hughes said all the money for the project would come from private contributions. Fundraising efforts have begun among a fairly small number of college supporters and alumni.

Contributors are being pitched the idea of a campus center dedicated to wellness, Hughes indicated.

“At this stage, we're very encouraged by the response and the energy that we've gotten for this project and this idea,” Hughes told The Gazette.

Alliant Energy already is working on “remediation” work at the building. The major focus is removal of machinery, Hughes said.

“The college believes the powerhouse project will dramatically enhance Beloit's residential experience, complete a 25-year redevelopment of the city's riverside and become a model for sustainable and cost-conscious renewal,” the release states.

An Alliant Energy spokesman said the site originally was home to Rock River Paper Mill, starting 1884. A coal-fired electricity-generating plant took over the site in 1908, run by the Beloit Water, Gas and Electric Co.

Wisconsin Power & Light—later Alliant—took over the plant in 1925. The plant was converted from coal to natural gas in 1986 and ceased operations in 2010.

Environmental cleanup is expected to be part of the project.

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