By Shereen Siewert
A $5 million condominium development remains stalled more than 18 months after the project was approved by the Wausau City Council, after a water main discovery forced significant changes to the plan.
The high-end condos are being constructed by Riverlife Wausau LLC, the same group that constructed the Riverlife Villages Phase I development on the city’s east riverfront. The condo project is set for a parcel just south of the recently-completed apartment complex and included $485,0000 in tax increment financing to defray the cost of DNR cap management and cleanup, geopiers and groundwater or flood mitigation.
But after the group presented designs that included 20-24 condos priced between $185,000 and $395,000 and an amphitheater for live musical performances directly on the water’s edge, developers learned a water main would have run straight through the proposed building.
City Planner Brad Lenz told Wausau Pilot & Review that Wausau “has always been aware of the water main,” though none was mentioned in the request for proposals on the property or in early plans for the site included in city meeting packets.
Sources close to the development say the ampitheater feature is no longer feasible, though Lenz disputes that claim. Wausau Economic Development Director Liz Brodek said she was unable to forward a copy of the current development agreement under consideration because the document is in the hands of the developer’s attorney.
Lenz downplayed the issue aid said the building plans “changed very little other than the building shifting to the north.”
Lenz did not respond to a request for the latest renderings for the project.
Lisa Rasmussen, who represents Dist. 7 and sits on the Economic Development Committee, said committee members have not been updated on any delay or a reworked plan that could eliminate the ampitheater feature.
“This email thread is the first I have heard of it,” Rasmussen said, replying to an email from Wausau Pilot & Review. “That public amenity was something the committee was very interested in as it approved the plan. Given the changes in play, I think it would be wise for the committee to receive an update and a copy of the plan changes at the next meeting so we can see and discuss them. We will also be interested in seeing if the movement of the building on the site will affect the view of (or access to) the riverfront overall for users that do not live there.”
Lenz said the Economic Development Committee and City Council “may not have had detailed engineering plans when considering proposals.”
“These plans take time and money to put together and often come later in the process,” he said.
Rasmussen acknowledged that the ED Committee considers projects conceptually and then leaves the site engineering and legal work to the professional teams as the agreement and land sales come together, but said “we do expect that we remain updated on unexpected hurdles or changes that are needed to address them.”
“Not that we would necessarily change our decisions, but we need to know what is happening and why as projects and planning flesh out these details, especially if they are causing parts of the plan to be eliminated,” said Rasmussen, who is calling for Brodek and Lenz to add a discussion item for the committee’s Oct. 5 meeting to update the group on the condo project’s progress and site plan changes.
Dist. 3 Council Member Tom Kilian, who represents the district in which the condos are located, said he was kept in the dark about the obstacles the development is facing and the changes to the site plan.
“As we can note from the recent 1300 Cleveland Avenue issue — and this case — important information is, at times, being obfuscated or simply withheld from district representatives, and the more this occurs, the worse and more costly the outcome can become for the community and taxpayer,” Kilian said. “We can expect more “Riverstrife” than “Riverlife” when alderpersons who are relevant and care are intentionally kept out of the loop.”
Mayor Katie Rosenberg told Wausau Pilot & Review she is discussing the project’s status with department heads and city officials.
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 after a series of city partnerships with other groups failed to materialize.
Viegut confirmed that the group is planning initial borings at the site this fall.