Fresh perspective for north end of riverfront

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UW-Madison student Jules West shows his northeast riverfront concept plan at City Hall last Tuesday night

Cities can pay thousands and thousands of dollars for designers to draw up a concept plan for a development project. Wausau just got one for free, because a UW-Madison student choose the northeast riverfront area as his capstone project his degree in landscape architecture.

Not that the city is committed in any way to use Jules West’s ideas and design. But his interest posed a unique opportunity to see what ideas a fresh, young perspective might imagine for that stretch of waterfront. Some of West’s ideas: a public plaza for events, a museum or other public place with a grass roof and built into the naturally occurring slope, with an adjacent sledding hill; a restaurant on the water; mixed use buildings with retail or commercial space on the main level with apartments above; and turning E. Wausau Avenue into a main corridor leading directly to the riverfront.

This area north of Bridge Street (behind Thrive Foodery and Athletic Park) currently is home to the wastewater treatment plant, Divepoint Scuba Paddle and Adventure Center, Great Lakes Cheese and Wausau Chemical. By the end of the year Great Lakes Cheese and Wausau Chemical will be moving to the west side business campus in a deal with the city to open up a large stretch of riverfront acreage. In addition, there’s a good amount of vacant land in the area, making it prime for redevelopment

Wausau city staff along with West developed a concept plan to rehabilitate the northeast riverfront area. At 35 acres, it’s an important piece of continuing to improve the entire east riverfront.

The concept plan is by no means a master plan for the area, says Wausau Assistant Planner Brad Sippel, but could act as a guide. “This isn’t going to be adopted by the city council or anything,” Sippel says, adding that the attention to this stretch is all about “reinvigorating the neighborhood around the wastewater treatment facility plant.”

(First published in the April 26, 2018 issue of City Pages)