The walls of the former General Motors assembly plant in Janesville started to come down Monday as the property’s new owner began to demolish the defunct 4.8 million-square-foot plant.

Backhoes and other demolition vehicles worked on the west side of the massive site. Initial work included tearing down the structure near Cherry Street on the west side of the GM property.

The site’s owner, Commercial Development Company, said it has been working inside the plant for weeks, removing asbestos and other materials.

The company informed the city of Janesville it would start physical demolition of plant buildings this week, the city said Monday in a news release.

Commercial Development is starting on the west side of the plant and working east toward the front façade along South Jackson Street.

In the short term, the demolition will be mostly out of view to passersby on West Delavan Drive and South Jackson Street, the two main thoroughfares that border the property.

Gazette reporters using an aerial drone camera observed demolition vehicles near a large rail spur adjacent to the plant. It was in that area where the vehicles carried and sorted metal, rubble and other debris from the demolition.

The work rolled out amid the clattering of materials being unloaded from the buckets of the demolition vehicles.

Parts of the outer walls on the plant’s west side had some metal panels removed, revealing the building’s skeletal frame.

The neighborhood adjacent to the work was quiet. Local news outlets were among the few onlookers trying to catch glimpses of the demolition’s start.

City of Janesville Building Director Tom Clippert said Commercial Development notified the city last week it intended to start demolition.

Clippert said based on the demolition plan Commercial Development submitted, it would start “phase one” of demolition—the removal of GM buildings—in the “northwest” section of the plant. He said demolition would progress east and south across the property.

Based on Commercial Development’s plan, it could take a year to demolish and clear the plant buildings, Clippert said. The company has said the process could take up to 18 months.

Commercial Development bought the property from GM last year for $9.6 million. It plans to clear the 265-acre GM site and ready it for industrial redevelopment on multiple parcels. The company said redevelopment would key on existing rail infrastructure adjacent to the plant.

According to a recent city memo outlining potential state grant funding for demolition and cleanup at the GM site, Commercial Development estimates the demolition and clearing of the plant could cost about $10 million.

Clippert said Commercial Development’s plans indicate the company would tear down all the buildings on the property.

“At this point all I know from their demolition plan is they’ll take down everything. That could change, but it would be up to them (Commercial Development),” Clippert said.

On Monday, Commercial Development did not return messages from The Gazette asking for more information.

In March, Commercial Development spokesman John Kowalik said the company planned to start physical demolition of most of the plant in April. He said it could take about nine months for crews to work east in its demolition of the 100-year-old auto plant.

Kowalik at the time said Commercial Development was working to hire heavy equipment operators for the demolition.

The city said the main truck routes for removal of materials from the site include West Delavan Drive, South Jackson Street, Reuther Way, Beloit Avenue and Highway 11.

The city said Commercial Development estimates about 25 truckloads will leave the plant each day between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Meanwhile, an industrial auction company has announced an online sale of leftover equipment from the GM plant, including robots, electrical equipment, controls, pumps, motors, tanks and overhead cranes.

Indiana auction firm Professional Industrial Appraisal is running the auction through aucto.com, an online industrial equipment auction platform.

Bids for the sale opened at 10 a.m. Monday, and the auction will run for four days from April 23-26, according to a news release from Aucto.

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