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A man walks past the former Armory on Janesville’s west side downtown on Thursday afternoon. A Burlington couple said they’ve bought the property at 10 S. High St. and intend to turn it into a wedding venue that would open later this year.

JANESVILLE

A Burlington couple plans to bring a renovation—and weddings—to the former U.S. Army National Guard armory in downtown Janesville.

Wedding and reception venue operator Wendy Lynch confirmed Thursday that she and her spouse, Andrew Lynch, purchased in late January the former armory at 10 S. High St. on the west end of downtown Janesville.

Lynch said she plans to transform the 12,000-square-foot armory, last used as an event and banquet hall by former owner KANDU Industries of Janesville into 10 South, a wedding venue that will offer couples dressing suites alongside dining and entertainment amenities to suit entire wedding day celebrations.

KANDU Executive Director Kathy Hansen confirmed the sale but declined to discuss a sale price. KANDU put the armory on the market last fall alongside the Pontiac Convention Center on the city’s east side.

Both locations saw limited use in 2020 and part of 2021 as the COVID-19 pandemic left the convention and catering industries with countless cancelled events, KANDU officials said last year.

Hansen said a sale of the Pontiac Convention Center could close later this month. She said she couldn’t give further details, pending negotiations with a buyer.

Lynch, who operates Bedo Brands—a trio of indoor-outdoor event and wedding venues in Burlington—said the former military training facility has “beautiful bones.” She listed the hardwood floors, brick walls, high ceilings and enormous, arched-window architecture as charming aspects of the 90-year-old building.

“We’ll be going in and giving it a facelift. We’ll leave the historic character and the charm in place, but ... create more of what feels like a wedding venue space,” Lynch said.

Lynch intends to modify some lighting and other structural elements built into the building in the early 2000s by an owner who ran a dinner theater there for several years.

Lynch said she and her husband plan to add dressing suites, a new and improved bar and cocktail lounge, an expansion of the patio on the property’s south side and an outdoor fireplace.

Lynch said she’s booking weddings for later this fall, but she intends to have the space renovated and ready to open sometime this summer.

The 12,000-square-foot, brick-and-block armory was built in the 1930s by the U.S. Army for its 32nd Tank Division of Wisconsin.

A designated historical site, the property in the recent past had hosted dinner theater groups and other events. During the 2016 presidential campaign, the local Republican Party rented out the armory to host televised rallies by then-Presidential candidates Ted Cruz and John Kasich.

“There were still a few red and blue streamers, hanging that we think (were left over) from 2016 remnants of those (political) events,” Lynch said.

Before COVID-19, Lynch said their three event halls drew thousands of wedding and event guests a week to Burlington’s downtown. She said her company’s revitalization and occupancy of the spaces spurred a downtown revival where empty storefronts once stood.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, Lynch has been operating the Burlington venues through Bedo Brands for seven years. Her company was hit by the same lockdowns and event cancellations that the pandemic brought to the entire event, wedding and hospitality sector.

Lynch said she and her staff created a “master’s course”—a study in how to shift operations to survive the pandemic. Over the past year, she began hunting for other properties located in the downtowns of southern Wisconsin cities that could benefit from a wedding venue drawing hundreds or even thousands on a busy weekend.

Across the street from the armory, Lynch has seen the six-floor, former Monterey Hotel under renovations, too. The Monterey’s owners are creating dozens of market-rate apartments within the building. It’s another example, Lynch said, of revitalization and revival of Janesville’s downtown riverfront.

“It didn’t take long to realize all the revitalization efforts and all the energy and momentum around that (armory) space,” Lynch said. “It’s exciting.”

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