By Shereen Siewert
The Wausau City Council officially nixed a troubled multi-million dollar apartment project planned for the city’s riverfront following a closed session meeting Tuesday night.
The $24.9 million proposal, submitted by Middleton-based T. Wall Enterprises, was the larger of 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
Last week, the Economic Development Committee declined a request by T. Wall to again change the timeline for the project. On Friday, Dist. 7 Alder Lisa Rasmussen said no development agreement was in place and the planning option had run out.
In January, the council approved a request from T. Wall to perform due diligence as part of the planning process, with a March 1 deadline to do so. Nick Patterson, representing T. Wall, contacted city officials on Feb. 9 and said soil borings were set to begin the week of Feb. 21. According to city documents, Patterson was informed on Feb. 16 that the city required certificates of insurance prior to testing. But during Tuesday’s Economic Development Committee, T. Wall representatives claimed they were unable to meet the insurance certification requirement at the site of the planned development and requested yet another extension from the city.
Terrence Wall, in a March 3 email to Wausau Pilot & Review, denied that his company was at risk of losing the agreement and insisted his plan was 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.”
Wausau-based Mudrovich & Associates designed the buildings, but was later replaced by Joe Lee Architects, a move that was not brought to some council members’ attention. As progress stalled on the plan, city officials pointed to concerns over failed negotiations and a mounting sense 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.
Residents were mixed on the development plan. While the project was viewed by some members of the community as a significant next step in building the city’s riverfront property zone, others criticized the obvious disconnect between the number of units and available parking as well as the taxpayer funding involved.
Project manager Nick Patterson on Tuesday sent an email to all council members and copied Wausau Pilot & Review with a document that outlined a “summary of events” and asked the council to continue with their plan.
“Contrary to false info being put out by others, we are ready to proceed,” the letter states. “The Development Agreement has been drafted and only needs Committee approval.”
But that plea fell on deaf ears Tuesday when the council, after spending about 45 minutes in closed session, voted to terminate the agreement with T. Wall, effective immediately. The vote was unanimous with one abstention. Dist. 1 Alderman Pat Peckham, who was unable to participate in the closed session meeting, abstained.
T. Wall is working with Wausau Opportunity Zone, Inc., on an ambitious, multi-faceted downtown development on the site of the former Wausau Center mall. Last week Dist. 7 Alder Lisa Rasmussen told Wausau Pilot & Review 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.