A Wausau business that received $125,000 in taxpayer funding in 2015 sold the property on a land contract without the city’s knowledge, according to city documents.
Now, the city is working with the new owner to try to save the business moving forward.
In October, 2015, the city approved a loan through Tax Increment District 6 to assist in reconstruction of the Wausau World Market building, 828 S. 3rd Ave. According to city documents, $100,000 was in the form of a loan that charges 3.3% interest, while $25,000 was a forgivable loan, of which $5,000 was forgiven annually on the condition that Wausau World Market kept its taxes and loan payments current, among other requirements.
City leaders say the owner, Chungsou Her, initially made his monthly $768.55 payments as agreed. Then in late spring of 2017 he requested a hiatus on his payments, which the city council approved for one year. Payments again started in June 2018 and were consistent until March, 2020 – when COVID hit. With the approval from the City Council, he stopped payments until December 2020, when they resumed.
But in May 2021, Her’s TIF automatic payment to the city bounced due to non-sufficient funds. City staff reached out to Her without success – then learned that Her sold the property to 4 Star Market, LLC, on a land contract without informing the city.
Caught unaware about the sale of Wausau World Market property, staff and city leaders are now planning to formalize a deal with the “new owners” even as the original lending bank has initiated foreclosure.
Community Development Manager Tammy Stratz told members of the Economic Development Committee Tuesday that the sale was a “violation of the development agreement.”
In her memo to the committee, community development manager said the 4 Star Market LLC has been maintaining the business and has taken over Wausau World Market’s monthly payments to AbbyBank, the first mortgage lender; MCDEVCO, the second mortgage lender lender; and the city “in hopes that all organizations will be willing to work with them and not lose their investment.”
“He (the original owner) moved to Oklahoma and kind of stopped making payments and the new owners have taken over the payment on his behalf which is a great sign that they want to do the right thing,” Stratz said. “The last thing we want to do is see (the new owner) lose their life savings.”
Stratz said staff is working with the new owners, along with AbbyBank and MCDEVCO, to resolve the situation, but the outcome is unsure.
Chair of the committee, Dist. 4 Alderman Tom Neal, said he’d like to see the business continue and expressed the hope the bank would cooperate and added the city could “take some action moving forward.”
Dist. 7 Alderwoman Lisa Rasmussen said the city’s goal was to incentivize that type of business in a cross-cultural environment and said they would support it if the opportunity arose after the legal matters were resolved.
To read Tammy Stratz’s memo on Wausau World Market, click here, and go to page 3.
Damakant Jayshi is a reporter for Wausau Pilot & Review. He is also a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of GroundTruth Project that places journalists into local newsrooms. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.