By Shereen Siewert
A $24.9 million development that relies on more than $2.5 million in taxpayer-funded incentives is one step closer to reality after a Wausau’s Economic Development Committee meeting Thursday.
The proposal, submitted by Middleton-based T. Wall Enterprises, was the larger of the two projects considered. T. Wall proposes buying three city-owned lots for $400,000 to build three four-story buildings featuring 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 properties lie directly south of the Wausau on the Water building, north of Stinchfield Creek.
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.
During Thursday’s meeting, former Parks Director Bill Duncanson cautioned the group against making a decision contrary to the initial vision for that section of the riverfront, which was meant to feature more commercial properties with a residential area to the south. Duncanson worked heavily on the Riverlife project until his retirement three years ago.
Duncanson reminded the Committee that the vision for the space between WOW and Stinchfield Creek was meant to be a place comfortable for the public – not an area with four-story buildings that would use the public green space to sell to residents.
He also urged the Committee to examine the fine print associated with grants and donations from federal and state sources as well as those from foundations that were given to overcome environmental hazards and create a high-quality public space in Wausau.
“You probably want to go back to all those funds that came to us and make sure there are no strings attached, go back to the original design concepts in order to make sure you don’t endanger yourself where those grant and donations came from,” Duncanson said.
The Committee chose the T. Wall project over that of Riverlife Wausau, LLC, the local group that developed The Apartments at Riverlife. The latter group’s $8 million project would have comprised a single facility with 39 market-rate apartments, 39 underground parking spaces and a portion of first-floor, multi-tenant commercial space. The group proposed buying the land from the city for $165,000 while receiving $688,000 in TIF funding to assist with the complex environmental issues working with the land.
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.
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 Architects is named as designer for the T. Wall project, while the Ashwaubenon engineering firm Ayres & Associates is also named as part of the development team. The group will form a new limited liability company called Main Street Wausau, LLC.
After a closed session meeting, the Committee voted 4-1 to direct city staff to meet with T. Wall on the development. Dist. 3 Alderman Tom Kilian was the sole vote against the project. Any final decision is up to the full council.