By Shereen Siewert

Members of the city’s economic development committee will consider major infrastructure upgrades to support a proposed $1.5 million brew pub on the city’s east riverfront, but have not yet publicly disclosed how much the project will cost taxpayers.

A closed session to discuss and possibly act upon the proposed upgrades to make way for Karma Brewing Company, which would be located on a roughly one-acre parcel at 101 Devoe St., Wausau, is set for Tuesday. The land is part of the 7.85-acre former Great Lakes Cheese property and immediately north of the existing structure on the parcel.

The brew pub’s proposal outlines three significant infrastructure upgrades necessary for the project and states that “the generosity of the city” will be key to its success. Necessary infrastructure upgrades include sewer and utility connections, creation of a roadway named Karma Dive, updates and continuations of existing roadways, and parking spaces. But no cost estimates related to the proposal have been publicly released. Recent infrastructure upgrades to support developments south of the brew pub have topped $2 million, according to city documents.

Karma’s proposal mentions a “capital injection” of $225,000 to satisfy requirements for a SBA 504 loan, but does not say where that injection will come from.

Economic Development Director Chris Schock said the proposal requests the land for free, along with access and utilities to the proposed site.

We do not have estimates on the improvements, we just received the proposal,” Schock said.

The $1.5 million proposal, which appears in a public information packet, calls for new construction of a 4,500- to 5,000-square foot building for a brewery and gastropub. Construction is estimated at $1.1 million, with an additional $400,000 in brewhouse and brewery expenses and $100,000 in contingency and operational funds prior to opening. Karma’s Tyler Vanden Heuvel is proposing an outdoor beer garden with fire features and outdoor dining, along with green space for events. Vanden Huevel, a Wausau native, has experience in the hospitality industry and has degrees in business administration and studio arts, according to his proposal.

The project proposal outlines four phases for the proposed brewery, beginning with acquisition of the property from the city.

“Contingent on a successful agreement and partnership with the City of Wausau for the land acquisition, Karma will have the ability to complete financial projections, finalize architectural plans, and gather construction bids to confirm the necessary $225K in capital injections needed to secure the $1.5 million for the calculated project cost,” the plan states. Karma has a goal of opening within 12 months and seeks to create 30-35 jobs while attracting tourists and city residents alike.

The three city infrastructure improvements required for the project are pictured below: (Source: City of Wausau documents)

Karma Brewing proposal: Nov. 1, 2019 screenshot

According to the proposal:

“Karma Brewing will need the generosity of the city as a valued partner in the long-term vision for the North River District. Willing to be part of the first development phase of the North River District, Karma will need to acquire the proposed acre of land along with the necessary infrastructure improvements and utility disperment required to access and build the necessary structures and provide access for supply chain requirements. The financing strategy and theoretical success of the Karma project is heavily contingent on a strong commitment from the city and enthusiasm in the opportunity to do something special for the City of Wausau, its citizens, and a vibrant and attractive River District.”

“We share the belief and focus towards an optimistic vision of capitalism where best business practices drive profits to make positive, real, and a sustainable impact on our community, environment, and set example for the craft beer industry and purpose-driven businesses around the world.”

The economic development committee, chaired by Alderman Tom Neal, meets at 5:15 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 5 in council chambers at City Hall, 407 Grant St., Wausau.

Top image: Ideas and design concept, Tyler Vanden Heuvel and Karma Brewing Company (Source: City of Wausau document)