By Shereen Siewert
WAUSAU — City leaders are encouraging the owners of Wausau Center mall to put the property up for sale, after news broke last week that the mall’s sole remaining anchor store will close.
At Tuesday’s economic development committee meeting, Economic Development Director Chris Schock said the Younkers closure could move mall owners in that direction.
“The city is continuing to encourage the lender/owners to…list the mall, and you know, the departure of Younkers, you know, does kind of move that process forward,” Schock said during the meeting.
A Miami-based investment banking firm bought the mall at a sheriff sale in July after former owner CBL walked away from the property. But the Younkers space is owned by a separate entity, an “out of town trust,” according to Schock, who said the trust is likely to list the Younkers property in short order.
The potential sale of the mall comes nearly two years after city leaders approved a $4.1 million plan to help CBL with physical improvements for the mall. Part of CBL’s plan, which never materialized, involved moving Younkers from its current location to the space once occupied by J.C. Penney. At the time, CBL representatives said moving Younkers was critical to keeping the anchor store open.
The move never happened. The Younkers closure began Feb. 1 and could take 10 to 12 weeks to finish. More than 50 jobs will be lost.
According to Wausau Finance Director Maryanne Groat, the $4.1 million loan taken out by the city and earmarked for the mall has since been “repurposed.” The city used $650,000 to acquire the former Sears property and dedicated $750,000 to extend Fulton Street as part of the riverfront project. The remaining $2,740,000 will go toward the city’s commitment to Frantz for the Riverlife project, Groat wrote in an email. Not all of those funds have yet been disbursed.
“I should add that $2,449,921 is remaining for the Frantz commitment and the majority of the $750,000 Fulton is still remaining,” Groat explained.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Schock said city staff will be in constant contact with the owner of the mall and the owner of the Younkers box and will regularly update council members on any related developments.