By Shereen Siewert
WAUSAU — Residents are getting a first look at initial design ideas for the streets surrounding the Wausau Center mall, part of an effort to breathe new life into the struggling shopping center.
City leaders in June selected Toole Design Group to study the streets, lighting and landscaping in the south downtown area around Wausau Center. Toole, one of nine consultants that responded to a request for proposals for the study, will be paid $50,000 for their work, according to city documents.
The workshop study includes an evaluation of circulation and parking patterns around the mall, an assessment of the conditions along Forest and Washington Streets and a look at the feel of the materials proposed for the streetscape experience.
Cindy Zerger, Minneapolis deputy office director for Toole Deisign, said the company is looking for ways to improve traffic flow around the mall. So far, that includes proposals to change some one-way streets to two-way streets to better direct traffic to the mall. Consultants are also studying the possibility of a roundabout at Forest Street and Grand Avenue.
One idea being floated is carving some streets through the current mall footprint to create a more modern, open air design, with increased pedestrian access. Open air malls have become increasingly popular ways to reinvent malls as retail and shopping attitudes and preferences have changed.
This week, the public is invited to stop by Wausau Center to learn about the project and provide ideas on design elements. An “open studio” is happening Wednesday, Sept. 26 until 8 p.m. and a public meeting will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 27.
Zerger said the consultant group is eager to hear input from residents, businesses and other stakeholders and will present their final recommendations on Oct. 18 during a public meeting at Wausau Center.
The open studio and public meetings are being held in the space next to the former Sears anchor store.