By Alex Gary - June 27th 2024



Workers will begin demolishing the building at 80-100 E. Grand Ave. that partially hangs over the Rock River next week, the City of Beloit announced this morning.

The 31,000-square-foot downtown building, which dates back to 1892 and was used briefly this century by Kerry Inc. and, has long been vacant. Workers will start next week with interior demolition work, so there will be no immediate disruption of traffic.

The outer walls should begin being torn down in late July or early August. At that point, parking on the the bridge will be closed, but traffic across the bridge will remain open.

“We are thrilled this public-private partnership is moving forward,” Beloit City Manager Jerry Gabrielatos said. “The transformation of this property will be a crucial step in the further development of downtown Beloit. The City looks forward to celebrating the opening of the Riverwalk and the future high-quality development by Hendricks Commercial Properties.”

The building has long been a curiosity because of the addition that extends out over the river. The 11,380-square-foot addition was built in 1921 by the S.S. Kresge Co., which would later change its name to KMart Corp.

Way back in 1999, in case involving Kerry and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the state issued a requirement that it come down by 2042 because it posed a threat of eventually collapsing into the river.

Thomas Larsen of the Beloit Historical Society compiled a history of the building that he published in 2021. He said he understands why the building has to come down.

"I like to see old buildings preserved, but you can't keep them all," Larsen said. "Especially when you are dealing with the river. That causes too many issues."

East Grand Development LLC, an entity set up by Hendricks Commercial Properties, bought the building in 2015 for $1. The city, though, took over ownership of the building in 2022 so that it could receive $1.6 million in grants from the WDNR to assist in tearing down the building.

Removing the building should alleviate some flooding issues and the city will be able to extend the Rock River Trail/Downtown Riverwalk.

In May, the city approved a $5.9 million contract with R.G. Huston Co. of Cottage Grove for the demolition. That was considerably higher than the engineering estimate of $3.5 estimate. Once you add in engineering costs, the project, which will include having to divert the river at some point, could cost as much as $6.5 million.

The city is spending $500,000 for the riverwalk extension. No city funds will be spent on the demolition. Hendricks has agreed to match the grants received by the city. With the costs coming in considerably higher than first expected, the city is applying for additional grant money.

The city will maintain ownership of the riverwalk area but will eventually give the property back to Hendricks. In March, Hendricks announced it intends to build a four-story, 48,000-square-foot mixed use building on the site that would include space for restaurants, retail stores, commercial offices and residential apartments.

The new building will have to wait. Because of the complexity of the tear down, demolition isn't expected to be complete until the summer of 2025.

"The city provided a schedule for a project completion date at the end of June 2025," Troy Anderson, senior vice president of development for Hendricks, said in an email. "We are currently working through the planning of this site to begin construction for a replacement building to begin in conjunction with this completion time frame."

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