The owner of the former General Motors plant site says it intends to give the city plans later this year on how it will tackle the next phase of demolition and clearing of the 240-acre industrial property.
But Commercial Development Company continues to be opaque about how it will handle dozens of acres of concrete floor slabs still in the ground—a lingering but sizable remnant of the former plant.
City officials have said the concrete question likely is central to the site’s redevelopment. It’s a question that has lingered since last summer, when the city began sending letters prodding Commercial Development for its plans.
In a letter last fall, Commercial Development told the city it was considering keeping some slabs in place as an environmental ground cap and possibly reusing them for redevelopment.
The company also said it planned to “defer” until “early 2020” giving the city a second-phase demolition plan that would address the fate of the concrete slabs.
Meanwhile, work to clear the site appears to be at a near standstill, and Commercial Development missed a June deadline to close out the first phase of demolition, according to recent letters the city sent the company.
As of Wednesday, large piles of scrap metal continued to stand on the fenced property, with idled backhoes parked nearby.
Economic Development Director Gale Price, who has been working with Commercial Development and state agencies on the site’s redevelopment prospects, said the city doesn’t have a clear idea on the company’s next steps.
“There’s not been any work done down there for quite some time. That is obviously a concern,” Price said.
The apparent slowdown prompted the city in mid-June and late July to send Commercial Development another set of letters. They reminded the company that under a city ordinance and an earlier agreement, it was required this summer to remove scrap metal from the site, close out the first phase of demolition and submit a plan for the second phase.
A July 28 letter from the city gave the company until Sept. 12 to submit a second-phase demolition plan, Price said.
Commercial Development responded to the June letter, telling the city it plans to remove the scrap piles by the end of this summer.
But Price said Commercial Development wrote that it’s still in the midst of a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources review of a soil and water investigation and environmental remediation report. The company said the state must approve the report before it can finalize a second-phase demolition plan.
A portion of that DNR review, the company said in a letter last year, could center on whether the state allows Commercial Development to reuse some concrete slabs at the main plant site.
Commercial Development said last year that review might be complete by spring, a time frame that has come and gone.
The city doesn’t currently have a window into the DNR’s environmental review, although Commercial Development suggested in its July letter that the review could be completed this fall, Price said.
That puts the city “kind of in a holding pattern right now,” he said.
The city wants to see new demolition plans that explain how much concrete Commercial Development intends to keep in the ground, for what purpose, and what it might mean for redevelopment prospects, Price said.
Meanwhile, the clock is ticking on an industrial cleanup grant the city secured for the site.
A $500,000 redevelopment grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. requires Commercial Development to give the city a second-phase demolition plan that, in part, shows how it intends to remove the concrete slabs and foundations.
City officials believe they must give the state agency evidence by fall that the concrete will be removed. Price said he’s not sure whether Commercial Development still aims to make use of the redevelopment grant.
Commercial Development did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.
Price said a city ordinance that covers demolition and clearing of industrial sites requires removal of hard surfaces, including floor slabs, and also requires plans for ground restoration and erosion control.
Price said the city has sought advice from other municipal officials who have dealt with large-scale industrial redevelopment sites. He said most of those municipalities preferred or required removal of leftover concrete slabs.
Price said he is aware Commercial Development has left slabs in place for developers to use in the past. But he said the city has seen no clear indication that prospective developers are interested in reusing slabs at the former plant.
The city doesn’t yet know enough about Commercial Development’s approach to reusing slabs to understand whether it might “help or hinder” redevelopment prospects, Price said.
“Our ultimate goal is to get the site redeveloped into an active industrial area,” he said. “I’d say I just don’t get too many clients that walk in the door and say, ‘I want 80 acres of concrete already in place before I build a building,” he said.
Commercial Development has not been clear about whether it intends to sell the site to another developer or if it would be involved in redevelopment there.