Redevelopment plans unveiled Tuesday show Janesville’s former General Motors plant site will rely heavily on an attribute few area industrial sites have: ready-made railroad infrastructure.
Actually, under “preliminary” plans that owner Commercial Development Company showed off at a public open house, the site will make even greater use of Wisconsin & Southern Railroad and Union Pacific Railroad lines that bisect the 250-acre property.
Tuesday marked the first time the public has gotten a peek at how Commercial Development could market the site when it’s finished clearing what’s left of the more than 4 million-square-foot plant on the northern half of the property.
Under plans revealed at the Rock County Job Center, both railroad companies would improve existing rail lines at the site, and Union Pacific would create a new line that would sweep through the west side of the 112-acre haul-away yard known as the JATCO site.
The idea, Commercial Development and its consultants said, is to turn the site into a set of parcels that could support development of new industries, such as distribution centers that would use the rail infrastructure at the site.
Along with plans for a railroad-centric redevelopment concept, Commercial Development and local architect Angus-Young Associates showed plans to extend Joliet Street so it bisects the GM site and connects to South Jackson Street, linking the site to Center Avenue, a main south-side thoroughfare.
John Fonke, executive vice president of Commercial Development, said he believes parts of the property, including the JATCO site, could be ready to be actively marketed by mid- to late 2019.
The GM site will be renamed “Centennial Industrial Park,” a tip of the cap to GM’s 100 years of history in Janesville. A design for a logo incorporates Art Deco features found on the plant’s original front façade, Angus-Young President Joe Stadelman said.
The plans unveiled Tuesday are part of Commercial Development’s requirement to give the city a roadmap for redevelopment of the site, and they are a major step as Commercial Development gets ready to market the site as an industrial park.
The proposed redevelopment is pending the city’s receipt and approval of full plans from Commercial Development for a planned-use district. The state Department of Natural Resources must also sign off on an environmental cleanup plan for parts of the site that need it.
Preliminary plans show the GM site would be broken up into multiple parcels, with a possible emphasis on larger manufacturing plants that would draw on rail access at the site.
For instance, plans show the main JATCO site could be split into three redevelopment lots. A rendering shows the JATCO site could house three example buildings—all large industrial facilities between 360,000 square feet and 540,000 square feet.
The potential buildings are all situated so they’d have railroad access.
Fonke said Commercial Development anticipates the bulk of developments would be on the larger side. However, he and Bill Mears, a Janesville broker hired to market the site, said the market ultimately will dictate the size and scope of developments.
“What I can tell you is that you have a lot more (industrial) rail site users that are closer to a half-million square feet than those in the 100,000-square-foot size,” Fonke said.
He called industrial use—particularly industry that’s tied to shipping by rail—the “best and highest use” of the GM site.
Plans also show a curved portion of new rail spur linking two Wisconsin & Southern Railroad lines that serve the main plant site. Stadelman said the east-west Wisconsin & Southern line through the main plant area will be straightened for improved access.
Fonke said rail improvements will allow the two separate railroad companies to “co-mingle” on lines throughout the huge property.
Stadelman said Union Pacific considers the GM site unusual because it’s one of the few industrial redevelopment sites in the region with rail infrastructure already in place.
He said a Union Pacific official has told him the company considers the GM site “the third best (industrial) rail site in the Midwest.”
Fonke said Commercial Development intends to complete all environmental cleanup necessary to ready the entire GM site for market because the land will be easier to sell once it’s cleaned up.
Although the entire site is being listed for sale for a combined $15.7 million, Fonke said it’s more likely Commercial Development could sell it in two pieces: the main GM plant site and the JATCO site.
But depending on interest from industries and how the DNR requires his company to handle cleanup, Fonke said it’s possible Commercial Development could focus cleanup on individual parcels that could readily be sold for specific uses.