By Shereen Siewert
An Iowa-based developer will not move forward with a mixed-use development project in the 100 block of Scott Street after city officials determined that Wausau’s financial involvement would have been too great.
The property, at 120 Scott St., is across the street from the Dudley Tower and was once the site of a row of businesses including the Scott Street Steak and Pub, The Vogue and others. The city purchased the property from MCDEVCO in April 2016 for just over $1.6 million.
Brent Dahlstrom, who represents Merge Urban Development, told committee members in June 2019 he envisioned a development that would include retail on the lower level with market-rate housing above. City leaders then granted Merge an exclusive planning agreement to allow Dahlstrom’s architects and planners time to come up with a rendering and site plan.
The agreement between Merge and Wausau expired June 30.
Wausau Business Development Specialist Sean Fitzgerald told Wausau Pilot & Review Thursday that Merge’s request for 20 percent tax increment financing assistance was “not realistic,” though Wausau continues to keep the door open for future projects with the group.
From 2005 to 2008, MCDEVCO and the Alexander Foundation worked together to raze the buildings on the block Scott Street. When the demolition was complete, the city entered into a long-term parking agreement with MCDEVCO o to operate a public parking lot on the property. The long-term expectation for the property was for the city to purchase the parcel from MCDEVCO to facilitate redevelopment, according to a March 2, 2016 memo to the economic development committee written by Finance Director MaryAnn Groat.
City leaders previously rejected two proposals for the property.
In March 2017, council members nixed a proposal for a four-story Cobblestone Hotel & Suites on the property amid concerns that the $1.5 million aid package requested by the developer was too high. The proposal called for a 61-room 9,929-square foot hotel that would have included a bar and restaurant, according to city documents.
Then in November 2017, the council voted down a $6 million proposal by Lokre Companies that called for construction of a 48-unit high end apartment building with underground parking and ground floor retail space. The proposal requested the city sell the land to Lokre for $500,000, provide a $250,000 grant for site work, and provide a $99,000 reverse TIF payment annually for 12 years, according to city documents.
That proposal was rejected amid concerns that the city’s financial involvement would have been too high.
Wausau Mayor Katie Rosenberg said Merge presented a beautiful project and has a great reputation.
“I’ve had a couple of conversations with their team and we decided not to move forward with this specific proposal because I was uncomfortable with the city investment that would be required to bring this project to fruition,” Rosenberg said. “There might be opportunity for us to partner in the future.”
Members of the Economic Development Committee on Tuesday will decide whether to issue a new request for proposals for the downtown site.