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(Beloit, WI) Shaun Zinck, Beloit Daily News

The City of Beloit and Beloit College were awarded over $1 million Wednesday from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to fund an extension of the riverwalk along the Rock River.

The extension will be built along the former Alliant Energy Blackhawk Generating Station, which the college plans to purchase and turn into a student activity and recreation center.

Called the Powerhouse project, the college plans to renovate the building and install a pool and auditorium on the lower level, a student union and fitness center and a glass-encased track on the main level.

In April, the college’s board of trustees approved a purchase agreement for its Powerhouse project. The agreement outlined a three-year plan for Beloit College to raise the money to purchase the property.

Jason Hughes, director of communications for the college, said the grant money will be used to build the riverwalk along the Rock River behind the Powerhouse building.

“We were very excited and thrilled,” Hughes said. “This is just one of the pieces of the project. Part of the idea for this project is answering the question, ‘What does it do for the community?’ and I think that’s why the city has been such an interested party.”

City Manager Larry Arft said the grant will benefit the city as a whole because the public will be able to use the walkway, and it will help tie the college and the Powerhouse together.

“It’s really a neat little project and the grant makes it possible to get that done,” he said. “It’s a great location and connects the whole bike system.”

Arft said the grant will cover 80 percent of the cost to build the riverwalk, and the city and college will share the other 20 percent local match. He added the city is working with its engineers to get a cost estimate.

The grant from WisDOT is part of the federal Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP), which approved about $13.3 million in grants earlier this week. About 27 other TAP projects in the state received the funding to help improve transportation options for citizens.

Hughes said the college is still working on getting a cost for the building. It was previously reported to be about $30 million, but Hughes said that needs to be updated.

The work on the riverwalk wouldn’t begin until the college purchases the building, which is about three years down the road if the money is raised by then.

“We are having conversations, and good conversations, and we hope in the near future to be formalizing pledges to raise money for the building,” he said, adding any bit of money helps with the project. “To have this to grant to help improve access to the river and proceeding down to the park is just fantastic.”

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