Ponderosa Motel Wausau (Dec. 9, 2019)

Wausau Pilot & Review

Wausau will receive the 2023 Audrey Nelson Award from the National Community Development Association for the redevelopment of the former Ponderosa Motel property on Grand Avenue, which was transformed into the Ross Avenue Apartments. 

In August 2015, fire gutted the seven-unit Ponderosa Motel, displacing all residents. The property owners soon abandoned it, leaving the building vacant and destroyed, and delinquent in property taxes. Wausau then worked with Marathon County to take over ownership of the property via tax deed. 

Three years after the fire, the county was finally successful in taking over the property. Community Development Authority and the city’s Community Development Department harnessed Community Development Block Grant funds of nearly $95,000 to acquire, demolish, and clear the site.

After a request for proposals, Emmerich Properties constructed the first of two 16-unit buildings, which was completed in October 2022.  The second building is expected to be built in the coming year.

Because of the CDBG funds used, five units were made available to low-income renters. These units are planned to assist households with some special needs, for residents who need guardians to oversee their financials, as well as provide some additional individual services while living largely independently.  The remaining units will be rented at market rate.

After many years of generating very little property tax, the tax on this first parcel will be about $20,000, allowing the city to recover its $95,000 investment in about five years.

“This whole project is a testament to what can happen when people come together and work for the good of our whole community. In addition to the hard work of City of Wausau employees like Community Development Manager Tammy Stratz, the Southeast Side Neighborhood Group deserves kudos as well for steadfastly advocating for transforming that space from a broken-down eyesore to new homes for dozens of people. We are so proud of the work our colleagues and partners accomplished and are excited that work is being recognized,” said Mayor Katie Rosenberg.

The city will be recognized at the NCDA’s winter conference on Jan. 27.