Major project on historic Landmark building changes Riverlife

(First published in the April 25, 2019 issue of City Pages)

Riverlife developer to hand off part of the project because the company now plans to renovate the biggest historic building in downtown Wausau


The same developer handling Riverlife now also is working to renovate The Landmark apartment building in Wausau

The developer of the stalled Riverlife project along the Wisconsin River now plans to pass off the residential portion to another developer in order to work on a number of downtown projects. That includes a potential remodel of The Landmark building on Scott Street.

Pending city approval, Gorman and Company will hand off the residential building of Riverlife to Ohde Construction and local developers Mitch Viegut and Fernando Riveron, says Wausau Mayor Robert Mielke. Ohde, Viegut and Riveron earlier this year competed with Gorman to be the next developers for Riverlife, located on the city-owned property just below downtown. That swap is subject to city council approval May 14.

The Riverlife project phase one was meant to be the first in many developments on the city’s 16-acre riverfront area. The project stalled under original developer Mike Frantz, who defaulted on the development agreement with the city.

Gorman had suggested changes to Frantz’s original design, but Ohde, Viegut and Riveron’s would be closer to the original, Viegut told City Pages. It will be a three-story building with about 52 units. They’re currently working with an architect to finalize the design.

The Ohde partnership also is working on a proposal for the southern part of Riverlife, Viegut says, which will be announced next month.

Mielke says Gorman wanted to hand off one of the Riverlife buildings because the company is becoming too busy, and have a number of other projects in the downtown area. For the major renovation of the roughly 100-unit Landmark building, Gorman plans to completely gut the insides, Mielke says. Gorman would buy and renovate the building, keeping the units affordable for its residents, says Wausau Community Development Director Chris Schock. Gorman has an offer to purchase the building but is in the due diligence phase, so the plans are not final.

The building operated as Wausau’s premiere hotel from 1925 until the 1970s when it was converted into apartments. Much of the main floor’s ornate features remain, including those found in Peking restaurant, which had been the hotel’s ballroom.

Wausau River District Executive Director Blake Opal-Wahoske said the change is an exciting prospect: “It’s a beautiful building in downtown, primed for redevelopment.”

According to a joint release between the developer and the city, representatives of Gorman and Company say the company received state tax credits to complete the Landmark project. The company is still negotiating with The Landmark’s owner, Scott Williams, to see if the project will go forward, and aims to keep the place affordable for The Landmark’s existing tenants. There has been interest in the property for years, but a change in ownership allowed the sale, sources say.

If all goes according to plan, Mielke says, the Riverlife project will restart in June.