Documented by Amanda McCartan for Wausau Pilot and Review
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE MEETING
Tuesday, April 2, 2019
Economic Development Members Present: Tom Neal – Chair, Pat Peckham, Michael Martens, Gary Gisselman, and Lisa Rasmussen
Others Present: Mayor Robert Mielke, Christian Schock – City of Wausau, Planning, Community, and Economic Development Director, Jennifer Smith – Bridge Community Health Clinic Executive Director, Victor Anderson – Secure Fund, LLC, Jason Blenker – Blenker Developments, LLC CEO, Tara Draeger – RISE UP Central Wisconsin
The Economic Committee meeting was called to order by Neal at 5:15 p.m.
Minutes from the March 5, 2019 meeting were amended to read “Peckham asked if the cost of the normal audited report is $10,000.00.”
Discussion and possible action on the murals for the WOW building were postponed initially because there were no representatives present to speak about the project. Later in the meeting, two representatives arrived and presented final designs for a mural. The committee voted to send the proposal to the full council as an amendment.
Discussion of possible action on the acquisition of the property at 2101 Grand Ave., the former Ponderosa Motel, took place next. Economic Development Director Chris Schock said the property was foreclosed upon and Marathon County acquired it. The city expressed interest in assisting with redevelopment of the property and staff recommended the Community Development Authority, CDA, work with the county to determine a goal.
Schock said this is an open-ended project where an environmental review was performed. The property is large enough to be redeveloped.
But Lisa Rasmussen made it clear she is not a fan of the idea because this is privately owned property destroyed by fire, then abandoned with taxes unpaid. Rasmussen wondered why Wausau should take responsibility for back taxes when the owners basically walked away scot free. “If they want to give it to us fine, but nobody wants this building or property since the fire. It’s not the City’s job to make use of it.” Instead, Rasmussen suggested the private sector should handle it – not the city.
Tom Neal agreed with Rasmussen’s points.
Pat Peckham said community residents are in favor of acquiring the property. “They want the buiding gone,” he said. “It’s ugly.” Peckham said by stepping up, the city would be doing the community a service. Peckham moved to ask the CDA to take a serious look at acquiring the property and making it more attractive.
Shock said there are extenuating circumstances in taxes and the fact that the building was burned. Getting a raze order would be difficult and could be a long process, while people want to get rid of this eyesore quckly.
During public comment, resident Debra Ryan said The Ponderosa had been used as emergency housing for families in need. Due to the fire, those families were left with no help and no resources. There are hundreds of single occupancy rooms throughout the city. Nobody is keeping track of how many of these rooms are actually occupied by entire families. We need more appropriate low income housing options, rather than leaving these families with nowhere to go.
The committee chose not to vote on the matter, but is asking the CDA to bring a new proposal.
Discussion of Possible Action on the Proposal Received for the Properties at 1940 North 2nd Street and 2001 North 2nd Street (Wausau Chemical)
Schock said Bridge Community Health Clinic made a proposal to the city and CDA to facilitate a new project to expand their network. With the relocation of Wausau Chemical, the city will eventually own some of the property. The building on the corner is already owned by the CDA. Bridge Community expressed interest and the CDA gave them more time to develop a plan.
Jen Smith spoke, explaining she has been the Executive Director of Bridge Community for six years. Expansion and renovation have been in consideration for years as to what the clinic will look like. The current amount of physical space in the medical department is not suited for integrated care. They applied for a grant for renovation and it was not approved. They are looking to secure all land for further expansion. Their mental health department needs to expand to fulfil the needs of the community and there is currently no room for it. Parking would need expansion as well. Also, would like to use a portion of the land to consolidate all community garden locations into one. Everything they have proposed is to improve the community.
The matter was later discussed in closed session.
Discussion of Possible Action on the Proposal received for the Property at 411 Washington Street (Sears)
Victor Anderson, representing the developer, said his group has been working on doing something downtown for the community but there is no set plan. He requested nine months to inspect the property for possible use and come up with a plan.
Rasmussen pointed out that this property was acquired so that the city could make sure it is put to the highest quality of use. She took issue with the idea of selling it without knowing the full intent of the developer.
Mayor Mielke said the city isn’t pushing to get rid of the property but it is time to let someone else take the reins. He recommended selling the property.
Schock explained the plan was preliminary only.
The committee did not approve the plan but discussed it in closed session.
Discussion of Possible Action on the Development Agreement Amendment Request Received for the Properties near 2nd and 3rd Streets, near Short Street (River East Townhomes)
Schock explained the request from the developer to move into phases two and three. The proposal has changed a bit. Short Street is in bad shape. They are waiting for project completion and road repairs will be completed within a year of that happening.
A representative from Blenker said they are asking for an extension in timing and are confident the plan will be completed on time but want a little breathing room just in case.
The motion to approve carried unanimously.
Discussion and Possible Action on the Proposal Received for the Property at 1401 Elm Street (Mountain Lanes)
Schock presented an application for city assistance for apartments and a medical office. UDD rezoning will be required for office and residential components.
Anderson, a representative for the project, said this is a $7 million project locked and ready to go and make great use of this location. It was great as a bowling alley but that time has passed and it’s about time for a change.
Gisselman said he has an issue with subsidizing high-end housing.
All but Gisselman voted in favor of the proposal.
The committee moved into closed session, then reconvened at 7:40 p.m.
In open session, the committee made no decision on the Ponderosa, approved the Bridge Street Clinic proposal with an amendment to work on conceptualization, and directed staff to work with the proposer for the former Sears Building on conceptualization.
Project updates followed:
Parkway 52 Design Services: A meeting is set for next week to discuss this, which is in the process.
Wausau Center Mall: Waiting, with a 3- month extension on monthly rent. Hoping they do make a proposal rather soon as to percentage rate.
Westside Battery: Schock says the city is still working with Urban Street Bistro and hoping to have the project move forward soon.
Live it Up Wausau: 56 loans have been closed in all. Pictures and testimonials were provided in thanks for the continuous support of the program.
Riverlife Park: City officials are working to formalize lease of building and move forward. Working to put together the final packet. Want to make sure all settlement requirements are met before signing. No timeline now but it’s crunch time and they need approval to start in spring.
Riverlife Villages Phase One: No developer agreement is yet in place.
Motion by Neal, second by Martens to adjourn meeting. Motion passed unanimously.
Adjournment Time: 8:10 p.m.