City documents: Mall-related legal bills top $211K

in Investigations

By Shereen Siewert

WAUSAU – A review of the city’s outside legal expenses shows the city has paid $211,178.99 in fees surrounding Wausau Center mall in the past two years.

The city also paid real estate consultant firm Jones Lang LaSalle, or JLL, $24,000 over a six-month span to help re-position the mall, according to city documents.

At the city’s finance committee meeting on Sept. 26, City Attorney Anne Jacobson laid out the charges in a spreadsheet that detailed five separate legal issues surrounding the mall that the city’s outside lawyers have handled between November 2015 and September 2017.

The largest outlay was spent on negotiations surrounding the Sears property, which the city purchased for $650,000 last year. Those bills, split between two outside law firms, total $124,124.82 alone, according to the city attorney’s office.

Additional funds were used to terminate the city’s ground lease for the former Sears property; create the Tax Increment Financing district that encompasses the mall; handle negotiations with the mall’s former owners; and negotiate a sublease to Micon Cinemas for a proposed theater.

The theater has so far not materialized, and Mayor Rob Mielke in October issued a news release that stated the deal had fallen through. But earlier this month, city leaders expressed hope that a theater could still happen for the Sears spot, opting to hold off on issuing a new request for proposals to develop the space.

Economic Development Director Chris Schock told finance committee members that legal expenses that are considered part of the development process are funded through the TID and are labeled as administrative expenses.

The $24,000 consultancy fee to JLL was approved by the council because their representatives “spoke the language of large-scale retail in negotiating with CBL,” said Council President Lisa Rasmussen, during the Sept. 26 meeting.

CBL, the former owner of the mall, defaulted on its $18 million loan earlier this year and essentially turned the mall over to the bank. The mall was sold at a Sheriff auction in August and now belongs to a Miami-based investment banking firm.