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City commits $755,000 to Wausau Center Mall, with strings attached


WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAU) -- Wausau’s City Council voted to commit 755-thousand dollars to the redevelopment of Wausau Center Mall, provided it’s owner meets a list of requirements. The plan passed the council Tuesday night. The financial commitment by the city is about equal to five years rent free for CBL and Associates, which owns the mall.

This vote is not the end of the issue. Council President Romey Wagner says they still have to negotiate with CBL on the specifics of the new redevelopment agreement.  “We need an agreement to move forward and CBL needs to know that we’re partnering with them, but we need them to come forward with some specific requirements we have in order to insure that they’ll get the money that we’re offering them. They have to put in a timeframe, and get the agreement ready to go.”

Wagner says the city expects CBL to come to them with very specific plans for how to bring that mall back to life.  “They need to have the Penney’s space committed for a ten year period. They need to have an agreement that we’re going to have a phase two to develop the rest of the mall into some sort of experience, if not necessarily a retail mall, but something to get people into the Wausau downtown in the evenings.”

Wagner says the city definitely has strings attached to the dollars they are offering.  “And, if they don’t meet our commitments, then we get the 755-thousand dollars back if they don’t come across with their promises.”

The Council President believes the city staff and CBL can work out the details of the new development agreement soon.  “Hopefully, this will move forward in a matter of months, and a few years developing this instead of ten. We can’t go out ten years. We’ve got to have a process start now. We’ve got to see the travel path to success.”

Council Member Keene Winters says this proposal is a financial commitment that affects current and future city budgets.  “It’s money, forgoing revenue that will come into our operating budget. That’s money we banked on for this year. That’s money we were banking on for next year, and now it’s not going to be there, and so either we’re going to have to cut the budget or raise taxes, and so this is going to be a very difficult commitment.”

Alderwoman Sherry Abitz says constituents have expressed concern about the cost and what it may do to their taxes.  “I’m really still kind of hesitant on this. I am going to vote for it, but I am going to make sure that the Finance and everybody else that is going to be involved with moving this forward, I’m going to keep a very close watch on you to make sure that we are not going to be losing money on this, and that my taxpayers are not going to be biting the bullet on this.”

Negotiations between the city and CBL are continuing. President Romey Wagner says any final agreement worked out between city staff and the mall still has to come back through the committees and the full city council before it is enacted.