By Shereen Siewert
WAUSAU — City officials on Tuesday will review a plan for HOM Furniture to redevelop the former Younkers store space at Wausau Center in downtown Wausau.
A resolution entering into an agreement with HOM Furniture is included in the public information packet for Tuesday’s city council meeting. HOM intends to buy the property at 300 Forest St. in Wausau from private owners S & B Detrick Limited Partnership, of Delaware, but must receive a signed estoppel letter from the city to facilitate the sale. An Estoppel Letter is a document often used in due diligence in real estate and mortgage activities. It is a document often completed, but at least signed, by a tenant used in his or her landlord’s proposed transaction with a third party.
This marks the second time HOM Furniture has expressed interest in a Wausau store. HOM was one of two businesses to respond to a request for proposals issued in September 2016 to develop the former Sears property. That property, purchased by the city in 2017 for $650,000, remains vacant more than two years after Sears shut down operations there. But city leaders in January 2017 rejected HOM in favor of a proposed Micon movie theater for the site. The theater never materialized.
The decision to choose Micon over the other RFP applicant, HOM Furniture, was not without debate. During the January 2017 city council meeting, then-Alderman Romey Wagner said he preferred HOM Furniture in part because they would not have required a loan. The company’s initial plan showed HOM was willing to invest more than $6 million to establish the store at the Sears location with an estimated 10-year impact in the community of $35 million. Comparable stores employ 28 full-time employees who earn average salaries averaging about $38,000 per year.
HOM Furniture is one of the nation’s largest furniture retailers serving customers in the upper Midwestern states of Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin and the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.
If HOM Furniture is successful in launching the store the plan would nix one of two proposed design concepts for the mall, which were unveiled last week during the city’s economic development committee meeting. But one of the two concepts would still be possible, bringing streets through the current mall structure, breaking portions of the mall into smaller redevelopment parcels and keeping the current Younkers footprint intact.