Editor’s note: This version of the story corrects the date of the meeting, which was held in December, and explains that the decision to focus on the former mall property ahead of planned Riverlife apartments has already been made. Wausau Pilot & Review regrets the error.
By Shereen Siewert
T. Wall Enterprises will focus first on redeveloping the former mall property in Wausau, while pushing back the time frame for apartments along Wausau’s east riverfront.
T. Wall Enterprises’ roughly $24.9 million apartment complex proposal was chosen in May during a competitive process over that of Riverlife Wausau, LLC, the local group that developed The Apartments at Riverlife. Now, T. Wall will shift its focus to the mall redevelopment, shifting the timeline that the City Council previously approved.
Wausau Development Director Liz Brodek told Wausau Pilot 7 Review that representatives from T Wall presented at the December 7, 2021 meeting explaining the plans and schedule for both the Mall Redevelopment and Riverlife projects that they are working on.
“T Wall isn’t looking to delay the Riverlife project, but the environmental considerations with the floodplain and engineering will simply take longer to get through the approval process,” Brodek wrote. “The mall site, not having these restrictions, will be easier to get to the construction phase by the end of 2022. The Riverlife project is anticipated to break ground in the fall of 2023 based on T Wall’s presentation.”
Based on that discussion, Brodek said, the Committee recommended moving forward with entering into a planning option agreement with T Wall for the Riverlife project, which will allow them to get onsite and start the engineering work they need to complete as part of their due diligence on the project. That planning option agreement is on the Committee’s agenda for discussion and possible action at the January meeting on Tuesday.
In November, Chuck Ghidorzi, speaking on behalf of Wausau Opportunity Zone, informed members of the Economic Development Committee that T. Wall Enterprises would partner with WOZ on the former mall property, which was acquired by WOZ with help from taxpayer funding. At the same meeting, Ghidorzi’s announcement that Wausau would prioritize the mall redevelopment over an already approved riverfront apartment project drew a sharp rebuke from several members of the city’s Economic Development Committee who did not hear of the change until that day.
During the November meeting, Dist. 7 Alder Lisa Rasmussen said she had no issue with T. Wall partnering on the mall redevelopment, but said such major changes must be routed through the Economic Development Committee, whose members would help determine whether to approve the delayed timeline or shift to a different developer.
“We have a process for that but it certainly starts in this committee and we need to see that soon,” Rasmussen said.
A proposal that laid the groundwork for the change was discussed in December, pushing the date for groundbreaking at the riverfront site to October 2023.
Under the terms of the proposal, T. Wall would break ground on the former mall site sometime between October and December 2022 and would contain commercial, retail and community areas facing what T. Wall calls the “future public courtyard and Wausau Public Market,” both of which are in a master plan for the site. A mix of apartments and commercial space aim to “bring in young professionals and empty-nesters alike from other communities to Wausau’s downtown,” the proposal states.
Nick Patterson, project manager for T. Wall, wrote in his memo to city leaders that the mall site could be shovel-ready within 12 months.
“I point out the timing for development of this property because we don’t want to deliver the riverfront development and the mall redevelopment at the same as we don’t want to risk the properties competing against each other and wrecking tax value to the TID,” Patterson’s memo states. “The favorable site conditions of the mall property allows us to deliver the mall redevelopment a year ahead of the riverfront development so the mall redevelopment can fully lease-up before the riverfront development is completed.”