Beloit College moves ahead with 'Powerhouse Project'

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Gazette staff
Monday, May 5, 2014

BELOIT—Beloit College is one step closer to buying a power generating station that it wants to convert into a massive college activity and recreation center.

College officials said Monday they have approved a plan to buy the former Alliant Energy Blackhawk Generating Station on the Rock River.

Jason Hughes, the college's director of communications, said Alliant officials would consider the offer—details of which have not been made public—in the next few weeks.

If the purchase agreement is approved, it would open a three-year window for the college to raise $30 million for the project. Hughes said all the money would come from private contributions. Smaller fundraising efforts have begun.

Potential contributors are being pitched the idea of a campus center dedicated to wellness, Hughes said.

“We're getting to closer to something that isn't a dream sequence,” Hughes said Monday, a couple of hours after college officials and the project's architect staged a public event to look at possible renderings of the project.

The college is referring to the project as the “Powerhouse Project.”

Hughes said the goal is to create an activity center “that marries a traditional student union with a recreational center.”

College officials have said they believe the project will 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.

Part of Monday's event was to get community response to some of the possibilities for the project. One rendering shows a former turbine gallery and how architects want to intermingle student union spaces with recreational facilities.

Other meetings are planned around campus to showcase the project.

Gazette files indicate the site originally was home to Rock River Paper Mill, starting in 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.

Last updated: 6:11 pm Monday, May 5, 2014

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