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City reintroduces local development team in Riverlife project

in Breaking News/News

By Shereen Siewert

WAUSAU — Six months after being passed over as the development team to restart construction for the Riverlife Phase I development a local group is back in the mix, according to a city of Wausau news release.

Members of the city council in November chose Gorman & Company to resume construction on the project but a development agreement has never been finalized. The company, which is headquartered in Oregon, Wis., was chosen in favor of Riverlife Wausau, LLC, a local development partnership between Bob Ohde Construction, Mitch Viegut and Dr. Fernando Riveron.

Now, it appears Riverlife Wausau, LLC will assume control of the development in the near future, about a year after construction halted and more than $2.7 million in construction liens were filed against the project.

City officials met in closed session for more than an hour Tuesday to discuss the “selection of (a) developer for the Riverlife Villages Phase I project,” according to an online agenda. No statement was made immediately after closed session but Mayor Rob Mielke issued a news release Wednesday afternoon stating that the Viegut/Ohde/Riveron team is now working with Gorman and Company to “facilitate a smooth restart and to ensure that Riverlife Villages Phase I work starts on time.”

In a prepared statement, Gorman and Company officials said they remain confident in the Riverlife area as the prime location for new development in the Wausau region but have also undertaken a new, large-scale renovation project for downtown’s historic Landmark Apartments.

“As we complete our due diligence with the owner and explore that large renovation opportunity…we have been in discussions with the Viegut/Ohde/Riveron team and we are working with them in a effort to restart construction,” the statement read. Gorman and Company is exploring options for the commercial/mixed use site originally proposed for the area.

Details on the Landmark Apartments renovations have not been disclosed, but Gorman officials say they are working to preserve the existing tenant base and maintain the property as affordable. The Landmark project is being made possible in part due to tax credits, officials said.

In his news release, Mielke said a final term sheet is expected for council approval in mid-May, paving the way for the project to restart in June.

The original proposal from Riverlife Wausau, LLC, seeks land acquisition from the city for the purchase price of $1 for residential construction only. The group would rely on $1 million in equity and $5 million in loans financed at 6 percent over 20 years through John Ford Investors Community Bank.

The Riverlife, LLC proposal projects that their plan would create 10 full-time jobs with salaries in the $40,000 range within one to three years. The group also pledges to sign a community workforce agreement with the local building trades council and source all subcontractors from within a 100-mile radius of Wausau.

“We appreciate the Viegut/Ohde/Riveron team’s continued commitment to Wausau and are confident in their capacity to move the project forward in a timely fashion,” Mielke said.

Officials have not yet said how they intend to handle the liens associated with the project, which must be satisfied before any land transfer takes place.

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