By Shereen Siewert
City officials this week will have a first look at two potential projects vying for a spot along Wausau’s north riverfront, responses to a request for proposals for three lots directly south of the Wausau on the Water building and north of Stinchfield Creek.
Committee members will choose between an $8 million proposal from local developers that relies on $688,000 in taxpayer-funded incentives and a $24.9 million project from an out-of-area developer that carries a roughly $2.5 million price tag in tax increment financing. A request for proposals went out in January.
The local group that developed The Apartments at Riverlife is proposing the smaller of the two developments, a three-story, mixed-use building that would use one lot in its entirety and a portion of a second lot. Riverlife Wausau, LLC, a local development partnership between Bob Ohde Construction, Mitch Viegut and Dr. Fernando Riveron, assumed control of the Riverlife Villages Phase I project in April 2019 after a series of city partnerships with other groups failed to materialize. The complex opened in the fall and is at or near capacity.
RiverlifeWausau LLC proposes a facility that includes 39 market-rate apartments, 39 underground parking spaces and a portion of first-floor, multi-tenant commercial space. The group proposes buying the land from the city for $165,000 while receiving $688,000 in TIF funding. That amount is being requested to assist with “the complex environmental issues working with this land and the extensive need for GEO piers to stabilize the foundation,” according to the proposal.
“After completing the Riverlife Apartments, we are all too familiar with the extra costs and testing that is necessary with this unique location,” the proposal states. Based on the 2020 tax rate, the estimated construction value of the project would generate about $201,000 in annual property taxes. Construction could begin as soon as this year.
But city staff is recommending a project proposed by Middleton-based T. Wall Enterprises, a proposal that scored significantly higher in the evaluation process. T. Wall Enterprises proposes buying all three lots for $400,000 to build three four-story buildings. The larger-scale project would feature 123 market-rate apartments with 82 underground parking spaces and about 2,300 square feet of first-floor commercial space per building, according to the proposal in the city packet. The two-phase project would begin with two buildings in spring of 2022 with a third building, just off of River Drive, being built the following year. The construction value of the larger project would generate estimated annual property taxes of $580,000 based on the 2020 tax rate, according to city documents.
T. Wall aims to provide “new housing for a diverse group of residents in the downtown district and will bring tens of millions of dollars of disposable income that will support the core downtown businesses,” according to the group’s proposal.
T. Wall Enterprises is led by Terrence R. Wall, who founded his former company, T. Wall Properties, in 1989 and helped build the company into one of the largest commercial real estate development and property management groups in Wisconsin. He was ousted as CEO of the former T. Wall Properties in 2012 after the real estate meltdown but soon after formed a new company, T. Wall Enterprises, to develop luxury apartments. The new company has spearheaded several high-profile projects throughout the state.
Wausau-based Mudrovich Architect would design the T. Wall project, and the Ashwaubenon engineering firm Ayres & Associates is also named as part of the development team. The group, if chosen, will form a new limited liability company called Main Street Wausau, LLC.
The request for proposals that went out in January specifically sought high-density, mixed-used development proposals that would include a minimum commercial portion of ground-level retail, entertainment or office space. But the need for office space has deteriorated rapidly since the pandemic began last year, as the Riverlife, LLC team pointed out in their application.
“Since the virus sent many adults home to work, office space is less in demand and the development option including new office space at Riverlife is no longer viable,” the proposal states. Riverlife, LLC in December unveiled a proposal that called for 20-24 condos priced between $185,000 and $395,000, a project that includes an amphitheater for live musical performances directly on the water’s edge.
To date, the city has invested millions of dollars in new infrastructure and extensive public amenities including the River Edge Trail system, about 200 parking spaces, landscaping and the Riverlife Park playground. In addition to the Apartments at Riverlife, two additional developments – Riverlife Condos and Cherry Tree Dental – have been approved by the city and will begin construction in the fall.
The Economic Development Committee meets at 5:15 p.m. Tuesday in Council Chambers at City Hall, 407 Grant St., Wausau. See the full packet here.