KANDU assumes ownership of The Armory

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Neil Johnson
August 24, 2015

JANESVILLE—Nonprofit company KANDU Industries has assumed ownership of The Armory, months after it overtook management of the prominent restaurant and special events venue in downtown Janesville.

Jim McMullen, development director for KANDU, confirmed Monday it now owns The Armory at 10 S. High St. The property is valued at $960,000, according to real estate transaction records certified last week with the state Department of Revenue.

That puts The Armory and future events there under control of KANDU through its subsidiary, Best Events Catering and Rentals. The company became manager of The Armory earlier this year following a deal made public in April by The Armory's then-owner, Mick Gilbertson.

Best Events in April began to curtail comedy nights and a routine schedule of entertainment and lunch and dinner dining that had operated out of The Armory for several years. Now, Best Events runs the venue as a space to host occasional private events that range from weddings to family reunions to business and nonprofit special events.

Best Events' new model limits the facility's hours of operation and crimps the public's access to the Armory that it had when it ran as an entertainment-based restaurant and lounge.

McMullen said full ownership of The Armory will give Best Events a more concrete presence in private events and entertainment in downtown Janesville and will allow the company to broaden its footprint in Rock County.

“After taking over The Armory's operations earlier this year, I can say this further transaction—our ownership for us—it's business as usual, a continuation of our focus of booking events,” McMullen said. “In fact, we're booked well into 2016 (at The Armory).”

McMullen said that under a real estate transaction agreement, the venue will continue to operate under The Armory name, serving the same items that had been on the menu there.

KANDU doesn't currently plan to change the interior or outside of The Armory.

Kandu has hired the former head chef at The Armory to oversee catering at the facility. UPDATE: And KANDU announced Tuesday it hired a new catering manager for Best Events, naming Kelly Silha to the post, a former banquet captain for Sheraton Hotel in Madison.

McMullen called the new ownership by KANDU a “win” for the company and The Armory, saying it fits KANDU's mission.

KANDU runs contracted, outsource manufacturing and services, and its own private events venue at 1741 Adel St. in Janesville. It operates as a nonprofit network that employs people with disabilities or those with special hiring needs.

Best Events employs between 30 and 100 people, and operates under KANDU's umbrella as “unrelated business” income, and KANDU pays income tax on Best Events' profits.

State Department of Revenue records show The Armory property appears to have been registered as a “gift” transferred fully to KANDU from former Armory owner Mick Gilbertson on June 16. Gilbertson's development firm The Developing Edge is registered as the seller.

At least, that's how parties in the transaction have officially filed and recorded the real estate transfer with the state, a state Department of Revenue agent confirmed Monday.

McMullen wouldn't confirm whether KANDU paid for The Armory property or received it as a gift or donation from the former owner.

“Our ownership is the result of collaborative effort between KANDU and Best Events and Mick and Jane Gilbertson to ensure the continuation of The Armory brand, and to maintain the beautiful, historic facility that they have restored. Other than that, we won't be disclosing further details of the transfer of the facility,” McMullen said.

McMullen said KANDU will pay property taxes on The Armory facility.

The Gazette was unable to reach Mick Gilbertson for comment.

The Rock County Register of Deeds Office and the city assessor's office on Monday couldn't confirm details of the real estate transaction.

The assessor's office typically doesn't review commercial property transfers until late in the year, when it cross-checks all local and state filings to learn whether individual sales represented true market value, or if any signaled duress or distress in a property transfer, an agent at the assessor's office said Monday.

Gilbertson, an architect, initially bought The Armory in 2004 for $85,000, according to city property tax records. The property's current assessed value, based partly on improvements, is $981,200, according to property tax records.

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