City Manager: Sale of Former Janesville GM Plant is a 'Gift'
JANESVILLE, WI — Wednesday’s announcement that the defunct General Motors plant had been sold comes nearly nine years to the day after the last SUV rolled off the plant’s assembly lines on Dec. 23, 2008.
A few hours after he’d heard about the finalized sale of the 4.8-million-square-foot plant and its 300-acre property, City Manager Mark Freitag told The Gazette he believed the news came at the right time.
“I think it’s kind of neat that the announcement of something this significant to the community is happening right at Christmas,” he said. “What a great Christmas gift for the community. We’ve got some closure, and we’re set to move forward as a community.”
Freitag said a GM official called him shortly before 11 a.m. Wednesday to announce the sale had closed. Commercial Development Company of St. Louis is the presumed buyer, he said.
The sale is not a surprise because Commercial Development, an industrial site redevelopment firm, announced in September that it had a contract to buy the GM plant and property.
GM and Commercial Development plan to hold a press conference at noon today in Janesville to give more details on the sale, Freitag said.
However, Wednesday’s announcement is a clear statement that the sale is final.
“We do have an answer that the deal is closed. All signatures are in,” Freitag said.
Both GM and Commercial Development indicated in early September that they would be working through a closing process that would roll out over about 75 days. That put a targeted date of Dec. 15 on the sale, Freitag said earlier.
GM did not offer more details Wednesday, including any information on the sale price, Freitag said.
The Gazette was not immediately able to reach a GM spokeswoman or Commercial Development official for comment.
Commercial Development confirmed the sale in a news release late Wednesday afternoon, saying that it “will assume responsibility for legacy environmental liabilities associated with the site” and that it plans to invest “significant resources to reposition the large industrial property” for new use.
As of late last week, Freitag said neither GM nor Commercial Development had given any sign that they had reached a deal. On Wednesday, a GM official called Freitag and said representatives of the two companies planned to travel to Janesville to hold a “press announcement” at noon today.
The press conference will be held in city council chambers at City Hall. Freitag said City Hall was chosen because it has ample seating capacity and space for officials and media.
Freitag said representatives of both companies plan to speak.
Commercial Development has told the city that it intends to clean up the GM facility, starting with asbestos removal inside the buildings.
According to earlier Gazette reports, Commercial Development told city officials it will then market the property for industrial tenants or buyers. If there is no interest from buyers, the company will tear down some or all of the plant buildings, possibly as early as 2018.