No SEARS BUILDING decision yet

The city’s economic development committee on Tuesday met in closed session to review two proposals for the former Sears building, but took no action on either plan.

The building, empty since Sears closed up shop in August, was once a cornerstone of the Wausau Center mall and is now being purchased by the city. Officials are awaiting a report from consultants Ehlers and Associates reviewing how much tax will be generated from each proposal before making a final decision on how best to repurpose the property.

One proposal would build a HOM furniture store and another, from Micon Cinemas, would build a 10-screen movie theater on the site. Interim Community Development Director Chris Schock says the review is standard procedure, and that Ehlers reviews financial aspects of all major city projects.

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Representatives from both Micon and HOM told city leaders before the closed session that each had been eyeing a location in Wausau for several years. Micon representative Nathan Woodworth says their market data shows the area is “underscreened,” meaning it has far fewer movie screens than it should. The theater would include a large-format screen, such as an IMAX, and would also serve food and alcohol.

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HOM Furniture reps expect to generate about $9-10 million in sales per year, and Micon believes it would bring in between $3-5 million per year.

 “We love both of their proposals, said Economic Development Committee Chair Tom Neal following a nearly hour-long closed session discussing the proposals Tuesday. “We frankly want both of you.”

The city is still in negotiations to purchase the building and expects to have an agreement finalized soon. City officials first authorized spending $700,000 on the property, but that price will likely change, Schock says, though he declined to offer specifics. Schock also declined to comment on what environmental testing on the property, which included an auto service center, revealed.

Both of those items will be reviewed at an upcoming meeting, Schock says. Either of the finance or economic development committees could make a recommendation on which project to choose, and the final decision will fall to the city council.