By Shereen Siewert
A Wisconsin developer is proposing a roughly $17 million historic rehabilitation of the Landmark Apartments in downtown Wausau to restore and renovate 94 apartments for low income renters.
Gorman and Company will rely in part on the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) program, created in 1986 and made permanent in 1993, to make the project feasible. The LIHTC program is an indirect federal subsidy used to finance the construction and rehabilitation of low-income affordable rental housing. In return, investors receive tax credits paid in annual allotments, generally over 10 years.
The Landmark Apartments, 221 Scott St., was built in 1925 and was originally the Hotel Wausau. The building was erected on the site of the former Hotel Bellis and was modeled after the Roberts Hotel in Muncie, Ind., with 257 rooms. In its heyday, the hotel boasted a two-story lobby, a ballroom, a coffee shop and a barber. According to the Wisconsin Historical Society, the hotel continued to serve the community as Hotel Wausau, and later as Motor Hotel Wausau, into the late 1960s, at which time it was purchased by G.R. Viele of Wausau and John B. Straub of Milwaukee. Their intent was to turn it into “a super convention facility and luxury downtown motor inn,” in order to compete with the new hotels and motels that had sprung up near the highway. That plan was soon abandoned and the hotel was purchased by Mr. & Mrs. Ray Goldbach, who renamed the hotel “The Landmark.” They remodeled the interior to include ninety-two apartments and eighteen commercial offices.
In 1986, the Goldbachs sold the building to realtor Jack Williams for $1,275,000. The building continues to function as an apartment building with commercial spaces, including The Peking Restaurant.
In a Nov. 2 memo to Public Housing Manager Betty Noel, Gorman officials say they submitted an application to the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority last year but had insufficient budget for construction, with an original target of $65,000 per unit that now sits at between $90,000 and $95,000 per unit. The increased construction budget required more sources for the project, which will now include more low income housing tax credit equity and a portion of seller financing for the purchase, along with a proposed $900,000 loan from Wausau’s Community Development Authority, whose members will consider the proposal on Tuesday.
The CDA loan request would have a 3% interest rate in an 18-year note.
The 94 units range from 628-square foot units to 920-square foot units ranging from $412 per month to $935 per month.
According to Gorman’s memo, the company proposes filing the WHEDA application in January. If approved, the company expects to close on the purchase in the fourth quarter of 2020 with construction completed on or about Dec. 31, 2021. Construction would occur similar to that of the Riverview Towers renovation, where top floor construction would be completed first. Residents would be temporarily relocated to “hotel” units within the building, then would be moved back to their original apartment upon completion.
Top photo credit: Wisconsin Historical Society