By AUSTIN MONTGOMERY
JANESVILLE — Demolition at the former Janesville General Motors plant is underway, and officials tasked with the redevelopment effort say there has been significant interest from “regional and global prospective occupants,” according to a Commercial Development Company (CDC) news release issued Wednesday.
The company believes the former assembly plant could represent new development and new jobs for Janesville and Rock County, spurred by Janesville’s strong workforce in courting a major employer following demolition and environmental abatement work.
Demolition is expected to be completed in 12 to 18 months, the company said. The site has the potential for 250 acres and 5 million square-feet of mixed-used, office, warehouse and light manufacturing space, according to CDC.
“Once this asset is ready for vertical development, its ability to leverage Class I/Class II rail service and an existing energy infrastructure capable of accommodating large demands, will elevate the Janesville-Beloit MSA industrial and warehousing portfolio into an even more competitive position,” said Rock County Economic Development Manager James Otterstein.
Earlier this year, the site was designated under the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act as one of Wisconsin’s “Opportunity Zones.” The designation provides tax incentives for long-term investment in the redevelopment of the site.
“This new equity accessible to businesses looking to locate at the former GM site from the new Opportunity Fund designation will allow for the build out of the former GM Assembly plant in a much shorter timeframe, bringing new jobs and taxes to the City of Janesville more quickly,” said CDC Executive Vice President Colleen Kokas.
The retired automotive plant was purchased by CDC in December 2017 and to date the company has conducted environmental remediation, removed asbestos and other waste with the preparation for further site demolition.
The site is currently marketed by local real estate broker Bill Mears of Coldwell Banker Commercial McGuire Mears and Associates.
“This is an incredible opportunity for industrial real estate in the City of Janesville,” Mears said. “The amount of infrastructure that is already in place, especially the two rail lines, can’t be matched by any other site in Wisconsin.”
Demolition will include the razing of 4.8 million square-feet of industrial space. To put the size into perspective, the GM plant is the equivalent of 106 football fields under one roof. Demolition work is being conducted by Industrial Demolition LLC, a subsidiary owned by CDC that provides demolition services on the company’s multiple brownfield reclamation projects.
The plant opened its doors in May 1919 and was the oldest operating GM plant when it was largely idled in December 2008 and closed permanently in April 2009. The plant employed around 7,000 employees at its peak in 1970 and employed around 1,200 workers in 2008.