By Shereen Siewert

A proposed $17 million historic rehabilitation of the Landmark Apartments in downtown Wausau is one step closer to reality, after being selected for low income housing tax credits in a competitive process.

The state and federal credits, combined with a previously approved $900,000 loan from the Wausau Community Development Authority, makes acquisition by Madison-area based Gorman & Company one step closer, according to a news release issued Thursday by the city of Wausau.

The project would restore and renovate 94 apartments for low income renters.

The tax credit 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.

City staff has been working with Gorman for more than two years to facilitate new, affordable housing, and the city council earlier this month approved a resolution of support for the tax credit application.

“There is a documented need for more affordable housing options and greater diversity of housing choices across the income spectrum and I’m pleased the City is working hard to address these needs.” Mayor Katie Rosenberg said. “Gorman & Company is an excellent and reputable partner that will help us reach our community goals.”

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.

But 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 said 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 the Community Development loan, which has 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.

“Gorman & Company is excited to have the opportunity to renovate the historic Landmark Apartments and to keep this iconic building as an integral part of Wausau’s historic downtown,” commented Ted Matkom, General Counsel and Development Manager for Gorman.

More on WHEDA LIHTC credits can be found here.