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City: Downtown theater design not yet finalized

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By Shereen Siewert

WAUSAU — The design for a downtown movie theater that expected to break ground between April and June is still being negotiated, more than seven months after city leaders approved a $1 million forgivable loan to support the project.

Economic Development Director Chris Schock this week said the city has not yet transferred the property, formerly owned and occupied by Sears, to Micon Cinemas. The property, which the city acquired for $650,000 earlier this year, is attached to the Wausau Center mall and has been vacant since Sears shuttered the store nearly a year ago.

Micon, a family-owned theater company with theaters in Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls, plans a 10-screen complex for the building and is expected to invest roughly $10 million into the project.

Complicating the negotiation process is a shared wall between the Sears building and the mall itself. The shared wall was a “recent challenge that came up,” Schock said, but architects are close to finalizing a new design.

Once those negotiations are complete, Schock said, the city will schedule a closing date on the real estate and demolition will begin.

At the July 18 city council meeting, Alderman Dennis Smith questioned why the property, which is being sold to Micon for $1, wasn’t already transferred if the theater is a sure thing. The property will not be taxable as long as the city owns the parcel.

But Schock said property is transferred based on the project at hand.

“You wouldn’t want us to transfer the property and later find that the project isn’t feasible because of something unforeseen,” Schock said.

Finance Director MaryAnne Groat said the property will be taxable for the coming year as long as Micon takes ownership by Jan. 1, 2018.

Schock said despite the delays, the theater is still on track to open in 2018, as specified in the developer agreement.

“The process is not clear or easy,” Schock said. “We’re doing a good job, and we will transfer the property when agreements are finalized.”

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