01STOCK_GM
Anthony Wahl

JANESVILLE

Blackhawk Community Credit Union plans to honor generations of local General Motors employees with a “legacy center”—a museum of sorts that could involve memorabilia and even structural material from the former auto assembly plant.

The center is still in planning stages, and a location hasn’t yet been selected, credit union officials said.

The credit union’s announcement of a legacy center comes as the former GM plant is slated for demolition. Commercial Development Company, which bought the plant late in 2017, plans to begin razing all or some of the 4.8 million-square-foot building in coming weeks.

Sherri Stumpf, CEO of Blackhawk Community Credit Union; Lisa Palma, member services vice president; and board Chairwoman Mary Frederick said the plan calls for a museum-like space—possibly a standalone building—that would keep alive the memory of a manufacturing plant that supported thousands of local families for nearly a century.

“As the bulldozers arrive and demolition of the oldest General Motors plant begins just before its centennial, it’s more important than ever to ensure that the strong work ethic and iconic history of our community is honored,” Frederick said in a statement Tuesday.

Stumpf and Palma said the legacy center could have an interactive historical timeline built into its walls, along with historical displays of items from the plant, and even art or sculptures built from structural pieces of the building.

The credit union, which has 12 branches—four of them in Janesville—was founded in 1965 to provide financial services for employees of GM and Fisher Body, including United Auto Workers Local 95 members. The credit union says it still serves retired GM workers and former employees who relocated to other GM plants across the U.S.

GM shuttered the Janesville plant in 2009. In December 2017, it sold the plant to brownfield redevelopment firm Commercial Development.

Stumpf and Palma said the GM legacy center is part of the credit union’s long-term plans. It could be part of new credit union facility in Janesville or a standalone building, they said.

Commercial Development has said it plans to redevelop the plant site within 12 to 18 months and market it as multiple industrial or commercial redevelopment sites.

Palma and Stumpf said credit union members have visited the former plant in recent weeks, and they plan to work with Commercial Development to claim some structural elements of the property, such as steel I-beams, bricks, flagpoles, picnic tables and other material for use in the legacy center.

The credit union will design and build the center itself, but it’s working with General Motors to gather memorabilia and items GM had removed from the plant and relocated to Detroit.

The credit union also is working with members and its own employees and board members who are former GM workers to form committees that will help plan the legacy center.

“We want our members to plan this. We have a number of (former GM employee) people that are still on our board of directors and some employees here that once worked at the plant,” Stumpf said. “It’s kind of our opportunity to get input from a wide variety of people and make sure that what we’re doing means something to the folks who worked there.”

Stumpf and Palma said that under one idea, the legacy center would place time capsules with historical items from the former plant underneath a riverwalk area the city plans in downtown Janesville. Each capsule would have a marker placed above it describing its contents.

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