A snow-capped former GM site in Janesville stands idle under the winter sky Wednesday. The 240-acre defunct former auto plant site had been under a due-diligence period for potential sale at an auction that owner Commercial Development held last year, but city officials said they recently learned the sale fell through.


A pending sale of the large former General Motors manufacturing property in Janesville has fallen apart, officials said.

The owner of the GM site, Commercial Development Company of St. Louis, and others involved in the private sale didn’t publicly name the winning bidder to emerge from an auction last November. But a broker involved told The Gazette late last year that the high bidder was working with the owner to close on the entire, 240-acre former industrial site.

Nick Faust, a city of Janesville spokesman, said the city’s economic development office learned in the last few days that the sale had faltered and failed to close during the 90-day, due-diligence period following the November sale.

The broker, an agent for online real estate auction firm The Future of Real Estate, said last year that the property had numerous prospective buyers.

The city of Janesville is not directly involved in the sale of the GM site, but some city officials said the city received inquiries last fall from multiple, local parties who said they were interested in buying parts of the property.

Faust said he didn’t have details on why the sale fell through, and he said it’s the city’s policy not to divulge details of a private real estate transaction, including whether other would-be buyers who also bid on the property in the fall remain interested.

As of Wednesday, The Future of Real Estate broker who assisted Commercial Development with the auction, continues to show the GM site on its website as an active listing for sale.

The broker and Commercial Development did not immediately respond to inquiries from a Gazette reporter on Wednesday. Earlier, the broker indicated the interested buyer had imminent interest in redeveloping the property, which is situated next to major rail spurs.

Janesville Economic Development Director Gale Price told WCLO radio during an opinion talk show interview this week that he was told the GM sale fell apart. Price said the city hopes a buyer who is interested will also pursue cleaning up the property.

Commercial Development is a brownfield cleanup firm and property holding company that bought the defunct, former GM factory site from GM in 2017.

The plant shuttered production in 2009.

Commercial Development has seldom given public details on its plans and progress at the GM property, although the owner spent the prior two years clearing and scrapping out the main plant property of more than two million square feet of factory buildings.

The main plant site now is almost fully cleared of the old production buildings, but its grounds remains covered with dozens of acres of concrete slab and other rubble remaining of the former auto plant’s foundations.

Commercial Development’s effort to sell the property came after months of relative inactivity at the site.

Commercial Development had initially indicated it sought an active role in readying the property for redevelopment, but the company has stopped short of removing heavy concrete foundation material that remains.

Still unclear is whether the state Department of Natural Resources will grant the 114-acre main plant parcel off South Jackson Street full environmental clearance.

City officials believe the DNR will reach a decision this winter or spring on whether to clear the site, which makes up about half the sprawling property and provides much of the access to the site’s electrical infrastructure and rail spurs.

Commercial Development has said in documents filed with the DNR that it wants to leave the dozens of acres of slab in the ground as a potential, ready-made base for future industrial redevelopment, and to avoid disturbing the ground where heavy industry was conducted for 100 years.

City Building Director Tom Clippert last year sent Commercial Development two notices that the company hadn’t met city rules for demolition and site cleanup.

The city wants the concrete removed and the ground capped with clean soil and grass. The city’s property demolition rules require that work, although the DNR might not.


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