Downtown cinema not quite dead

Thought kaput, the movie theater plan for the Sears building could be back with a local developer


Jesse Yang

Last month Wausau city officials announced that the plan to put a movie theater into the former Sears building was dead. Turns out, Micon Cinemas is still interested, and a new, local developer might be key to making it happen.

City officials went back to the drawing board on what to do with the former Sears building since it was announced that Micon and Wausau Center mall owner Rialto Capital Management couldn’t come to terms on a proposed $10 million project. Though the Sears building is separate, the mall still has some say in what happens there.

But it was the developers who had the real hang-up, officials say. Micon has traditionally worked with contractor Hoeft Builders and developer Robb Majeski of Cottagewood Group. But it was the development side of the deal that fell through, says Wausau Economic Development Director Chris Schock. He says other developers could work with Micon.

“Micon has been clear they’re still interested in being operators and they still believe in the Wausau market,” Schock says. “The key is determining the right partners.”

Mayor Robert Mielke says a local entity has expressed interest in working with Micon, but wouldn’t expand any further, as Micon and the entity are in preliminary talks with each other. “There might be a restructuring of the deal … I’m kind of guessing that means they would want more money, which I’m not sure I would want to do,” Mielke says. “I would have to hear the entire proposal before we say yes or no.”

The other options the city will consider are a previously rejected proposal by HOM Furniture, or collecting new proposals for the site.

Wausau purchased the former Sears building in 2016 for $650,000 with the intention of repurposing it. In the original Micon deal, the city would have provided the Eau Claire-based theater chain with the land and a $1 million forgivable loan.