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(Beloit, WI) By Shawn Zinck, Beloit Daily News

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation announced Friday it had awarded a $1 million grant to aid in the Ironworks renovations.

The city of Beloit applied for the grant in October on behalf of Hendricks Commercial Properties in order to help with the infrastructure improvements currently under way at the building, at 655 Third St.

The Ironworks complex is located on the site of the defunct Beloit Corp., which for many years was the city’s largest employer. After Beloit Corp.’s demise the vacant site was purchased by Diane Hendricks and her late husband, Ken, and has been under redevelopment the past several years.

A total of $5.1 million was handed out by the WEDC to six communities under a new state program to help spur redevelopment on abandoned industrial sites throughout the state.

Rob Gerbitz, COO of Hendricks Commercial Properties, said the company was very pleased at the announcement.

“We are really happy that they saw the value in the Ironworks renovations and re-gentrification,” he said.

Gerbitz said a bulk of the money will be used to create a side street for added parking to the southern portion of the property. Work has already started on the buildings, and Gerbitz said crews will be working throughout the winter.

Gov. Scott Walker said in a statement Friday the grants will help “stimulate investment and job creation” on sites that are idle or underutilized.

“This will help make those sites more attractive to developers, site selectors and businesses, and should not only bring more jobs to these areas, but also boost investment throughout the community,” the statement said.

City Manager Larry Arft said this is one of two grants the city applied for to help with the Ironworks project. The second grant offers an additional $500,000 of grant money through the Community Development Investment Grant program for projects in downtown areas that help retain or create jobs.

Arft said the city submitted that grant a few days ago, and have not heard any status on it as of yet.

“We are obviously very pleased with the announcement and believe it will be very helpful to the project,” he said. “This is a relatively small public contribution for the overall project.”

In October, Mark Membrino, Hendricks Commercial Properties vice president for the Midwest region, said about $30 million would be invested into the site over the next several years. The renovations could lead to about 1,500 new jobs in the building.

The “Center Spine Road” will be built between two other buildings, with costs estimated to be about $6 million. Membrino said at the time Hendricks was working on signing a company to lease space to create 100 software jobs.

The other five sites include $1 million awards to Milwaukee, Port Edwards and Wausau, and $584,000 to Waterloo and $534,000 to Madison. Milwaukee will use the money for a 20-acre parcel part of the Century City redevelopment project on the city’s north side, WEDC said. The property once housed the Tower Automotive and A.O Smith Corp.

Madison will use the funds on a 28-acre site that formerly held the Royster-Clark fertilizer manufacturing plant. The site is part of an overall 60-acre proposed development that would include building homes, apartments and commercial retail space.

Port Edwards has a 193-acre mill site that was owned by Domtar Corp. WEDC said city officials are planning a research and business park site. City officials in Waterloo are planning to renovate an existing office building on 20-acres of land along with constructing apartments and creating a riverfront park.

Finally, in Wausau the grant money will go towards its $82 million East Riverfront Redevelopment project on a 21-acre site along the Wisconsin River, WEDC said.

WEDC CEO Reed Hall said in a statement Friday the six sites are in “prime location and have the potential to become the cornerstones of their respective communities.”

“However, because of their size and other complexities, the sites cannot be redeveloped solely by the private sector,” he said in the statement. “This program provides these communities with the resources to help get these sites shovel-ready.”

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