Janesville gets state money for GM factory demolition

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JANESVILLE – The city has been awarded $500,000 in state money to help demolish the long-vacant General Motors factory and prepare the huge site for potential redevelopment.
The money from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. will go toward the costs of razing six buildings on the 114-acre assembly plant area, where thousands of workers once turned out vehicles such as the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon SUVs.
More than 5,000 employees of GM and its suppliers lost their jobs when the automaker began winding down production in Janesville in 2008 and shut the doors for good the following year. The idling of the sprawling plant 4.8 million square feet under roof hit Janesville’s economy hard and left a huge hole on the city’s south side.
Now, demolition work has begun under supervision of the property’s new owner, St. Louis-based Commercial Development Co. Inc., which paid $9.6 million for the entire 265-acre site. The firm plans to raze the buildings to make way for about 1 million square feet of space it will market to industrial and warehousing users who need rail service. Demolition is expected to be completed by June 2020.
Commercial Development Co. specializes in rejuvenating old industrial sites. Since 1990, it has bought and redeveloped or sold more than 200 pieces of problem real estate, including shuttered factories, power plants, quarries and chemical plants. The Janesville property is at least the fifth former GM plant Commercial Development has acquired.
Janesville and Rock County have rebounded somewhat from the economic shock of the plant closing. Since 2009, Rock County has added private-sector jobs at a much faster pace than Wisconsin as a whole. But as of last December, the county still hadn’t regained the employment level of 2007, the year before GM began the shutdown. Meanwhile, Rock County’s average wage, which tracked Wisconsin’s average during the early 2000s, has fallen behind the statewide figure since the big factory closed.

Rick Romell, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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