By Shereen Siewert
As Wausau officials shift away from a troubled multi-million dollar apartment project on the city’s north riverfront, the developer spearheading the project insists his group is moving ahead on their original plan.
Terrence Wall, in an email to Wausau Pilot & Review, said his company, T. Wall Enterprises, “still plans on moving forward.”
“The developer’s architect has designed the buildings and is ready to proceed to the next steps,” Wall told Wausau Pilot & Review, adding that construction could begin “potentially in early 2023 if the developer is allowed to proceed with each step as is the normal course of a development.”
But city documents show a potential legal skirmish ahead, and members of the Economic Development Committee clearly indicated they wish to move on. The Wausau City Council on Tuesday will go into closed session to confer with legal counsel “with respect to litigation in which it is or is likely to become involved” regarding the T. Wall planning agreement.
On Tuesday, the Economic Development Committee declined a request by Middleton-based T. Wall to again change the timeline for the $24.9 million project. On Friday, Dist. 7 Alder Lisa Rasmussen said no development agreement is in place and the planning option has run out, though a formal vote to quash the development was not on the ED meeting agenda.
“I think the committee was clear it wants to do a new [request for proposals] since we feel we have waited long enough,” Rasmussen told Wausau Pilot & Review. “We just were not willing to hold prime property any longer for one company when there may be other interest.”
The proposal is the larger of the two projects considered in 2021 by the Council. T. Wall proposed buying three city-owned lots for $400,000 to build three four-story buildings featuring 123 market-rate apartments with 82 underground parking spaces.
Wall, in his email, complained that city officials repeatedly “moved the goal posts” for the project, which he said prevented the developer’s contractors from conducting tests or accessing the site “by imposing conditions that could not be met.”
Rasmussen, who is a member of the Economic Development Committee, said she felt that granting an extension to T. Wall amounted to an “exercise in futility.”
“Apparently they were sent site access agreements months ago and did nothing, but when they needed an extension a few months ago, complained to the council that they did not have site access or site control,” Rasmussen said. “We are certainly not going to allow either of those without an understanding of who is responsible for what. At that time, we gave them until March 1 and they agreed to that deadline. Oddly, they waited until a week before the deadline to even start the testing they wanted to do. It all sounded like a big cat and mouse game that should not take 10 months.”
Officials also pointed to mounting concerns that T. Wall would ask for more city participation for the project than originally planned. The initial request relied on more than $2.5 million in taxpayer-funded incentives.
Rasmussen said Committee members and city staffers are simply fed up.
“I want growth in Wausau as much as the next person but there has to be a top end to how long we wait for action,” she said.
T. Wall has also been tapped to work with Wausau Opportunity Zone, Inc., on an ambitious, multi-faceted downtown development on the site of the former Wausau Center mall. Rasmussen said she hopes the same “foot-dragging” does not happen with the mall project, “but in that case WOZ will be managing them…not the city.”
A $5 million condominium development that features high-end condos constructed by Riverlife Wausau LLC, the same group that constructed the Riverlife Villages Phase I development, is still underway. The condo project is set for a parcel just south of the recently-completed apartment complex.