B.C.’s Powerhouse project is underway

For Stateline Business

BELOIT — Beloit College’s Powerhouse project is underway, following a light-hearted groundbreaking ceremony recently held at the college.

All interests involved with the $38 million private-public partnership to revamp the former Blackhawk Generating Station on Riverside Drive met for a triumphant ceremony on campus at Aldrich Field. The partnership will re-imagine the 100-year-old structure, set to open in the fall of 2019. Around 300 stakeholders, residents, faculty and staff attended the event.

Alliant CEO Patricia Kampling and Beloit College President Scott Bierman thanked all parties involved, including the over-1,000 private donors who made the project possible. Principal of Studio Gang Jeanne Gang — the team behind the designs for the project — along with Kampling and Bierman all said the partnerships were tied to the strong, shared vision to move the innovative plan forward.

“I remember our first couple of meetings and us all having that clear vision, that passion and the commitment,” Kampling said. “I knew we’d get to this day.”

Plans on the project started back in 2010, with the college setting a funding target for this year, which was met by Beloit College avoiding having to use any tuition dollars on the project to bring the college a state-of-the-art student center to life.

“We are celebrating the power of partnerships,” Bierman said. “... This facility will pave a new pathway forward for how higher education imagines student-centered spaces on their campuses for the foreseeable future.”

A new student union will be housed in the expansive plant, and also include a recreation center.

The City of Beloit contributed $1.51 million for an accompanying 800-foot riverwalk behind the impending conference and student center through a state transportation grant.

The plan also could include a pedestrian bridge over Riverside Drive to substitute for any traffic alterations to the busy arterial highway.

The facility will encompass around 120,000 square feet for the entire student center and new student union. A health and wellness center also is set for the former energy plant.

The college hoped the project could be a “model of adaptive reuse and eco-friendly design” to showcase sustainable redevelopment practices, including using the brick and steel of the former facility in the new design.

“I don’t think there is another project that has the importance of this one in terms of sustainability reusing the structure, which is the most sustainable thing you can do, in providing a spark to campus life and the life of Beloit and activating this incredible riverfront and become something that will set up our city for the next 100 years in terms of growth and activity and environmental health. I hope we can show everyone this project in hopes that they copy it and do the same thing with local, decommissioned power plants.”

The former power plant was coal-powered until 1986, before switching to natural gas and closed in 2010. The plant is set to be switched from Alliant’s name to the college at the end of this year, officials said.