By Shereen Siewert

Members of Wausau’s economic development committee on Tuesday will discuss a proposal for high end apartments and a multi-tenant commercial building that has drawn the ire of dozens of neighborhood residents.

Aedifix Holdings, which is owned by Amherst-based Blenker Construction, seeks to purchase land from the city — remnant parcels from the Thomas Street Phase II project — for $1. An approximate value of the 14 total parcels would be roughly $126,000 based at a value of $9,000 per lot, according to city documents.

Additionally, Aedfix is asking the city to validate that the development sites are clear of any environmental contamination. Previously, the developer sought 20 percent tax increment financing participation from the city, but the existing TID #6 closed out its statutorily-mandated expense period in May 2020. The project would generate an estimated annual tax revenue of $186,000 for the city.

Plans for the remnant parcels include more than 30 units of housing along with a building that could be used for retail, commercial, or office purposes. Rents for the proposed town homes would range from $1,300 to $1,500 per month, an amount neighborhood resident and Wausau City Council Dist. 3 council candidate Tom Kilian called “astounding.”

At the request of the economic development committee, a community information meeting on the project proposal was held August 17 at Riverside Park. About 60 people attended the meeting. Additionally, the city received 26 emails from constituents, all of which will be considered Tuesday.

Citizen responses were overwhelmingly opposed to the project, citing concerns about the sale of land to a developer for $1. Many residents felt the rental rates were too high for the neighborhood, while others criticized the design aspects of the first phase Aedfix Holdings developments built further down Thomas Street over the past few years. Still others voiced concern that additional traffic from 30 housing units to Thomas Street would further snarl traffic along the corridor.

Just two comments – one voiced during the meeting and another mailed form –were favorable about what the project would bring to the neighborhood.

Many neighborhood residents in Dist. 3 opposed the earlier Thomas Street duplex construction. A petition urging officials to reject the plan garnered about 120 signatures from Dist. 10 residents, according to city documents. Though the petition was submitted to the city clerk before the project was approved, council members opted to move forward with the plan.

Much of the public comment on the new proposal suggests adding single family homes, perhaps for low-income families with the assistance of Habitat for Humanity, is the answer to keeping the fabric of the neighborhood intact.

“Doing rentals is a crap shoot,” wrote Mary Clauss, of Wausau. “You never know what you’re going to get.”

Another resident, Jennifer Pieper, said in her public comment form that tenants are not going to invest in the community.

“Apartments are short term, not people who will stay in Wausau and invest in economic growth,” Pieper wrote.

Mary Holmberg said building a multi-family complex in her backyard would be very disappointing, with concerns about a potential decline in property values and a desire to keep the neighborhood oriented toward families.

Some public commenters took issue with the existing Aedfix/Blenker developments on the western portion of Thomas Street, calling them “monstrosities” and “eyesores.” See all comments included in this week’s meeting packet here.

The Aedfix/Blenker proposal is the only item on Tuesday’s agenda for possible action. The committee will also hear updates on plans for Wausau Center mall, a separate Aedfix/Blenker proposal for Riverlife and for Second and Third Streets, the Diversified Companies expansion, Wausau CARES loans and phase 2 environmental testing for the former incubator site at 1300 Cleveland Avenue.

The meeting is set for 5:15 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 407 Grant St., Wausau.

Members of the public may attend in person, subject to the social distancing rules of maintaining at least 6 feet apart from other attendees, or by calling 1-408-418-9388 using access code 146 865 5230. The password is wausau.

Members of the public who do not wish to appear in person may view the meeting live over the internet at https://tinyurl.com/WausauCityCouncil, on the City of Wausau’s YouTube Channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-Nigpdco_i8sq5FbbJD_aw, live by cable TV, Channel 981, and a video is available in its entirety and can be accessed at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-Nigpdco_i8sq5FbbJD_aw af.

Any person wishing to offer public comment who does not appear in person to do so, may e-mail Sean Fitzgerald at sean.fitzgerald@ci.wausau.wi.us with “Economic Development Committee public comment” in the subject line prior to the meeting start.

Messages related to agenda items received prior to the start of the meeting will be provided to the chair.