By Shereen Siewert
Wausau will once again seek proposals to develop the site of the former West Side Battery and L&S Printing on the city’s west side, property that remains vacant despite multiple prior attempts to attract developers.
Project plans for the property, at 415 S. First Ave. and 401 S. First Ave., have twice been nixed since Wausau acquired the land. City leaders in September 2016 purchased the West Side Battery property for $200,000 using a loan made by the Judd S. Alexander Foundation. The adjoining parcel, the former home of L&S Printing, was sold to the city in 2014 for $190,000, also with a loan from the Judd S. Alexander Foundation.
Wausau’s Economic Development committee this week directed Liz Brodek, the city’s new development director, to issue a request for proposals on the property. Brodek on Tuesday said the city has seen “potentially promising” interest in the properties, from both commercial and residential aspects. One comes from a “known” developer, Brodek said, but no names were disclosed.
During a meeting Tuesday, Alder Sarah Watson asked how requests for proposals are distributed for maximum exposure to allow for more robust responses.
Brodek said at a base level, the RFP is posted on the city’s website and is published in a newspaper. City Planner Brad Lenz explained that the way RFPs are distributed depends on the project itself.
“We try to get it out to the local people we think are interested in it,” Lenz said. “In this case we’ll send it to people who have contacted us…and basically the local development community.”
Members of the Wausau City Council in January 2020 gave the nod to a proposal for The Dam Place, which would have served breakfast and lunch and offered catering services. City officials then approved transferring the property to the project planners for $1. The $1.5 million project never came to fruition and in June 2020, in the midst of the pandemic and economic downturn, project planners withdrew from the development. The transaction was never completed.
In a prior plan, city officials in October 2019 scuttled a development from Clint Schulz, who withdrew his proposal to create a 99-seat Urban Street Bistro restaurant – more than two years after his initial proposal was approved. Then valued at about $600,000, the project asked for a $100,000 commercial loan and a $150,000 MCDEVCO commercial equipment loan, while purchasing the property from the city for $225,000. Schulz backed away from the project in the wake of a legal issue.
The RFP, which can be found here, will remain open for a five-week span and must include a proposed property purchase or lease price, estimated construction value, estimated taxable value, architectural renderings of the proposed construction and any request for city participation. Proposals are due Oct. 14 and will be reviewed Oct. 15.