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Details released in Riverlife project proposals

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By Shereen Siewert

WAUSAU — City leaders this month reviewed more detailed plans from three potential developers along the Riverlife corridor, but so far no firm decisions have been made on the future of the project.

At an economic development committee meeting on Oct. 2, Dave Johnson of Wausau presented a preliminary site plan and rendering for high end condos that would be constructed adjacent to the current Riverlife Villages property. Johnson’s vision is to build larger condos, between 2,000 and 3,000 square feet each, with a so-called “white box” concept, where buyers could finish each unit to their liking.

Dave Johnson of Wausau presented this preliminary design for high-end condos to be built along the city’s east riverfront. Image: City of Wausau public document

Johnson, who is not asking for any city assistance so far for the project, cautioned members of the economic development committee that his plan is in the beginning stages and subject to change based on feasibility and risk.

“For me, it all boils down to risk assessment,” Johnson told the committee. “You’ve got a huge pile of contaminated dirt there…a lot of things we’ve got to get squared away before anything happens.”

Committee members also reviewed proposals from two developers interested in taking over the Riverlife Villages Phase I development, which has been mired in legal issues for months and is subject to nearly $3 million in liens.

Local partners Bob Ohde, Mitch Viegut and Dr. Fernando Riveron propose purchasing the existing 52-unit apartment lot and foundation for $1, but only if the existing liens are satisfied and the title is clear. Viegut said purchasing the property, rather than leasing from the city as the former project entailed, would allow the city to begin collecting real estate taxes while making future financing efforts easier.

Ohde echoed Viegut’s position.

“Lenders tend to look down on lending money for a project when you don’t own the property,” Ohde told the committee.

The local group’s proposal calls for moving forward with the current apartment project with capital supplied by all three partners, with a potential to move forward with commercial space as the market dictates. They estimate construction on the apartment portion would take between 12 and 18 months to complete.

Ted Matkom, who represents Oregon, Wis.-based Gorman & Co., cut his presentation short by urging city leaders to choose Ohde’s team.

“Let’s cut to the chase,” Matkom said. “I’ll tell you right now, if you guys have a local group that’s willing to put in the equity…I think with the lesson you learned with Mike Frantz, I think you take your local group and run.”

Economic Development Committee Chair Tom Neal thanked Matkom for his candor.

“That was quite a cut to the chase,” Neal said.

After meeting in closed session, the committee took no action but will continue to work toward resuming the project. Plans for all three proposals were not available before the meeting but were uploaded late last week and can be accessed here.

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