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City ponders mixed-use development for downtown Wausau (UPDATED)

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Project proposal includes commercial space, luxury apartments

By Shereen Siewert

WAUSAU — Wausau leaders this week will consider a proposal for for a mixed-use development across the street from the Dudley Tower, a plan that includes more than $1.4 million in requested incentives from the city.

The $6 million proposal by Lokre Companies calls for construction of a 48-unit high end apartment building at 120 Scott Street with underground parking and ground floor retail space. The initial proposal requests the city sell the land to Lokre for $500,000, provide a $250,000 grant for site work, and provide a $99,000 reverse TIF payment annually for 12 years, according to city documents.

The city purchased the property from McDevco in April 2016 for just over $1.6 million.

From 2005 to 2008, McDevco and the Alexander Foundation worked together to raze the buildings fronting the 100 block of Scott Street. When the demolition was complete, the city entered into a long-term parking agreement with McDevco to operate a public parking lot on the property. The long-term expectation for the property was for the city to purchase the parcel from McDevco to facilitate redevelopment, according to a March 2, 2016 memo to the economic development committee written by Finance Director MaryAnn Groat.

In a reverse TIF cash grant, when project taxes come in, the city would return a portion of those funds back to the property owner. A reverse TIF payment at $99,000 annually for 12 years means the city would provide the developer with more than $1.12 million over the course of the agreement, bringing the total aid package to more than $1.4 million, a figure that does not include the city’s $1.1 million  loss on the purchase of the property.

Under the terms of the financing agreement with the Alexander Foundation, the city agreed to make 10 annual interest-only payments on the property, with a balloon payment of $1,702,341 due June 1, 2026. The city made its first payment on the promissory note June 1 for $44,269, and would be required to pay the $1,609,779 loan balance upon selling the property to Lokre, along with any interest that has accrued since the June 1 payment. The annual interest rate for the first five years is 2.75 percent, according to city documents.

City leaders in March nixed a proposal for a four-story Cobblestone Hotel & Suites on the property amid concerns that the $1.5 million aid package requested by the developer was too high. The proposal called for a 61-room 9,929-square foot hotel that would have included a bar and restaurant, according to city documents.

The proposed Scott Street Apartments development includes 25 1-bedroom units that would be leased for $895 per month and 23 2-bedroom units leased at $1,095 per month, plus a rooftop workout room and community room. The first floor includes 3,000 square feet of space and could be geared toward coffee shops, restaurants, or other retail businesses, according to city documents.

Members of the city’s economic development committee will review the plan on Thursday.
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1 Comment

  1. [The city purchased the property from McDevco in April 2016 for just over $1.6 million…..
    From 2005 to 2008, McDevco and the Alexander Foundation worked together to raze the buildings fronting the 100 block of Scott Street. When the demolition was complete, the city entered into a long-term parking agreement with McDevco to operate a public parking lot on the property. The long-term expectation for the property was for the city to purchase the parcel from McDevco to facilitate redevelopment, according to a March 2, 2016 memo to the economic development committee written by Finance Director MaryAnn Groat.]

    This is a textbook example of how developers use government and public funds to warehouse property, manipulate markets, and obtain public funds for private profit. Both McDevco (Marathon County Development Corporation) and the Alexander Foundation (“one of the foremost names in the famous ‘Wausau Group'”) are “tax exempt” corporations. After existing structures were demolished on Scott Street arrangements were made to have the municipality of Wausau mothball the property as a parking lot, keeping both the property and the former structures from the marketplace. Now, The City is considering offers which would require giving away the property it purchased or selling it at a reduced cost while at the same time offering incentives to the property developers. Any new development, at tax payer expense, will probably be sold to the public as creating jobs and business opportunities. It’s the same game that has been playing itself out in Wausau and other cities across the United States under the guise of urban development for decades. Remember the Golden Rule: “them that’s got the gold rules!” No surprise that Wausau is in debt.

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