By Shereen Siewert
WAUSAU — City leaders on Tuesday tabled a request by Urban Street Bistro owner Clint Schultz for a low-interest commercial rehabilitation loan to allow for revised estimates from contractors.
Schultz’s application, dated July 16, seeks a commercial rehabilitation loan of $125,000 to defray the cost of a planned outdoor patio, window replacement, roof repair, door replacement and parking lot landscaping. Commercial rehabilitation loans aim to “to stimulate rehabilitation and redevelopment of commercial real estate within downtown Wausau,” according to city documents. The loans, which are maintained and monitored by the finance department and reviewed by the city’s economic development committee, carry a 1.5 percent interest rate with payments deferred for one year.
Schultz told members of the economic development committee he is in an “excellent position to tentatively set a closing date” with a local bank to complete the purchase, which has been in the works since March 2017. Schultz said he is waiting for revised estimates from contractors that reflect changes in his plans for the property, which have been downsized to their original state.
The initial project, first proposed in March 2017, called for the former West Side Battery building at 415 S. First Ave. to become a 99-seat Urban Street Bistro restaurant. Then valued at about $600,000, the project asked for a $100,000 commercial loan and a $150,000 MCDEVCO commercial equipment loan, while purchasing the property from the city for $225,000.
But what began as a basic remodel later developed into a much more ambitious project with an estimated value of more than $2 million. Those plans, which included a brew pub, have now been scrapped in favor of a scaled-down project.
“We’re hearkening back to the original proposal,” Schultz said.
In response to questions posed by Alderman Pat Peckham, Economic Development Director Chris Schock said the city’s commercial rehabilitation loans do not require a business plan or three years of tax returns. Instead, those loans are based on expected improvements being performed on the property, and act as a second mortgage. The loan won’t be granted unless financing for the rest of the project is in place.
Economic Development Committee Chair Tom Neal said such loans are “tantamount to an infrastructure improvement.”
But Wausau resident Deb Ryan was sharply critical of the process when she briefly took to the podium to speak.
“You’re not doing your homework, and in my opinion you are being negligent,” Ryan told the committee.
Neal then demanded Ryan step away from the podium and be seated.
“We are doing our due diligence,” Neal said.
Committee members ultimately tabled the discussion until September to give Schultz time to gather his estimates and set a closing date for the sale.
The project involves two parcels of property, both which are owned by the city. City leaders in September 2016 purchased the West Side Battery property for $200,000 using a loan made by the Judd S. Alexander Foundation. The adjoining parcel, the former home of L&S Printing, was sold to the city in 2014 for $190,000, also with a loan from the Judd S. Alexander Foundation.
The purchase price was amended last year to $235,947 to allow the city to recoup real estate taxes on the property for 2017, and has since been amended to $246,895 to reflect property taxes that the city would have collected for 2018 if the sale had closed as scheduled. The tax amount was based on an assessment completed before the city acquired the property, according to figures provided previously by Schock.
Schultz’s plan was the only proposal the city received after issuing a request for proposals to develop the property. So far, the property has not changed hands.