By Shereen Siewert

WAUSAU — A group of consultants presented initial findings from the first phase of the market study for the Wausau Center mall Tuesday, giving the economic development committee a first look at possibilities for the struggling shopping center.

Consultants from Place and Main and Archive DS unveiled two potential solutions to better use the mall and integrate the space with the city’s vibrant downtown area. Both proposals would break the mall into smaller redevelopment parcels and pull existing street patterns through the site. Each parcel would then be redeveloped into commercial, retail, housing, mixed use, or green space and could be two to three stories high — or higher, depending on market demand.

The consultants said smaller parcels are important because no one person would be forced to undertake the entire redevelopment to make the project successful.

One plan calls for keeping the current Younkers footprint intact while the other would pull Third Street through to Forest Street, essentially cutting Younkers in half. Parking structures would remain, something the consultants called a “huge asset” for any redevelopment.

The consultants said the initial designs are long-term strategies and are still a work in progress.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Economic Development Director Chris Schock said moving forward with any plan depends largely on what the current or future mall owner would agree to undertake. The city currently owns the former Sears space, while the former Younkers space is owned by an out of state entity. The rest of the mall is currently owned by Miami-based Rialto and managed by Mid-America Management of Milwaukee.

The consultants are being paid by a grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Commission. Part of the process includes a demographic analysis, which showed the largest projected net growth in the next five years will come from seniors age 65 to 84. The study also showed a net decrease in working age adults.

Joe Borgstrom of Place and Main said the city’s current rent rates are “incredibly affordable” compared to other markets, but a lack of high end units does exist. The outlook for retail, however, does not lie in big box stores or national chains but in restaurants and niche retail areas.

17 replies on “City leaders get first look at mall redevelopment ideas”

  1. The money pit continues, failed prior vision from previous leadership and has injected into this leadership.

  2. “moving forward with any plan depends largely on what the current or future mall owner would agree to undertake.” When government intervenes in private businesses and private lives, advised them what to do. It’s none of your business. If you are such geniuses in fixing businesses, run your own business you useless government employees. You cannot even deal with the Sears part of the building offering it for free. Enough wasting tax dollars!

  3. Why is any of this happening? The mall is owned by a private entity who can do anything it wants with the property and is under no obligation to do any of this. This is like the Village of Weston getting a grant to study what to put in my garden.

    Maybe the City could have used the dollars to focus on developing plans for things it owns.

    1. There is a small group of downtown hereditary that are trying to keep their perpetual and exclusive milking cow alive. Our city “leaders” are so blinded by that group that they do not realize Wausau has another 99% to it. You should see the mayor and some of the city gang keeping up with this downtown clique’s social status on facebook. You would think they got elected to socialize instead of running a city. Well, they are running for the 1% of the city or pleasing it at least. Where is the party?

      1. SO, I am only going to respond to part of that. I believe that the downtown clique is real, but I also do not believe it is like you describe.

        I wonder if there is a way to measure the economic impact of the downtown region. It seems like a city center is almost always the prime emphasis of government.

    2. It is not? There is a free (Sears) building. Did Chris Schock approach any Rib Mountain businesses to relocate in a free building? Barnes and Noble you can have a free building, free of rent as long you relocate downtown Wausau or the Hotel proposal on Scott street that was ignored? When you figure out how the suffocating dynamics of this decaying downtown work then we can talk.

      1. Ron, I agree with you that there is a clique downtown. I have a hard time assigning a sort of evil intent.

        Let me start with this, I posit that the clique downtown is or are people who live and work downtown. Either as residents or business and property owners. These people naturally (geography and shared interest) advocate for their part of the pie, and do so together. Right? I think that is right.

        Could it be that the City of Wausau reaction is inappropriately focused (or perceived to be) on these business owners?

        I mean there is a West Side Business Association, and their are neighboorhood groups all over the place advocating for what they want. Maybe the techniques of economic development are different for city centers versus outlying areas?

        Not sure.

        And to beat a deadhorse, this is all made worse by the City not communicating.

    3. “This is like the Village of Weston getting a grant to study what to put in my garden.”

      Don’t put it past them. If your garden exists from Green Acres to 29 they basically already have.

    4. Sorry Dino! I did not say anything about “evil intent” and it is only limited to few that are ruining it for the rest. There is a small group of individuals that control most of the boards of different government and none profit groups related to downtown interest. Check the names, see how they places their connections, unfair employments to promote their interests. It is not rocket science just major conflict of interest.

      1. Thanks Ron. It seems that a lot of folks sort of imply conspiracy which I think of as evil.

        I have done the research on boards, and I am not really sure how I can prove or validate the idea that this is somehow unfair. I used to think it was as well, a full blown conspiracy put forth by the Jankes or who knows who.

        But my thinking has changed. I do not think that the folks are not doing exactly what they should be doing to protect themselves and their economic interests. Isn’t that what they should be doing?

    5. STOP THE PRESSES! I agree, Dino! Ok, now that’s over….. 😉
      Why is it happening? Easy-peasy…….it’s (yet again) spending other people’s money. It’s really just like city of Wausau taxpayer funds. Meaning, it’s not their own $$, so what’s the big deal? I thought we have the “best and brightest” minds right here in Wausau, so we need to spend grant money for some stupid out of town/state consulting firm to give the dimwits on the ED committee what’s “possible” to do with a building THEY DON’T FREAKING OWN?! This is just so colossally stupid, you can’t make it up! George Orwell is spinning in his grave right now. So now what? They just spent (does anyone really know an exact amount?) to find out……….NOTHING. A freaking pipe dream. Why don’t we pay these consultants to find out the best way to mow my lawn? The city has NO control over how I mow my lawn, just like they have NO control over what Rialto does with their 70% empty mall.
      Ron is 100% correct as well. They can’t even GIVE AWAY the Sears building, but continue their fantasy circle-jerk about what to do about the rest of the parcel that they again…….DO NOT OWN.

  4. As someone who has interest in someday having there own business, the biggest hurdle in Wausau is the cost of rent. Everyone thinks there property is worth gold. Why don’t they do something to let people like me be able to get a spot to start out a retail business.

    I have thought from the start the theater idea was bad. Was down in Point a few weeks ago, The Rodgers a few blocks from the UW looked terrible.

    I do like the idea of running Third back to Forest.

  5. Run 3rd Street all the way to the Post Office. Install a translucent canopy over 3rd just like Fremont St in Las Vegas. It would open up the space, allow for store fronts, and provide a dry sheltered environment for shoppers. Mall ownership can’t fill the existing dinosaur, the city could buy the street back and give Rialto a chance to make something unique, downsized and profitable. Spending more on the business plan and operations side of the deal is not our city purview.

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