In August members of the Wausau Opportunity Zone and T. Wall Enterprises hoped to get an extension on its project to redevelop the city’s former mall site. That came after City Pages learned from local investors that they’d been solicited to invest in the project, long after T. Wall had originally said it would start construction.
City leaders put the brakes on in August, wanting in writing what WOZ said it would do – ensure it would pay any of the costs incurred by the delay. City leaders considered that last month again, but the city was still negotiating with WOZ over its agreement.
On Tuesday, the city council approved the agreement. But city leaders were clear in their message before the vote: don’t bother coming back asking for another extension.
The move paves the way for T. Wall Enterprises to develop a site where the former Wausau Center mall sat into 150 market rate apartments. The developer is expected to begin work early next year and finish by the end of 2025.
Tuesday’s decision came after more than an hour of discussion about the project, including how other cities have handled delays from T. Wall on similar projects, and the actions of T. Wall’s owner, Terrence Wall, who threatened to sue council members and on an earlier project threatened to sue the city. They also included the cost of further delays: a perpetual empty spot in the heart of Wausau’s downtown.
Council member Tom Kilian said he’s heard from residents that they’re tired of T. Wall’s actions and can’t understand why the city would continue to do business with T. Wall. He pointed out that the agreement throws under the bus a contractor the city worked with that was supposed to perform soil testing on the site, but was denied site access by WOZ.
Council Member Lisa Rasmussen said she’s heard the opposite from her residents: Just get this project done already.
Polling from City Pages found residents overwhelmingly are sick of the mall project, which since being torn down in 2021 has existed as an empty hole in the heart of downtown.
Council President Becky McElhaney said the decision is a challenging one, since she’s no fan of the developer, but also recognizes the impact of having the site sit undeveloped for years if the agreement isn’t approved. McElhaney voted for the project but had a clear message for T. Wall: “Never come back here; you will have a no vote,” McElhaney said of any future delay requests. “If you come back here with any excuses, I don’t care what it is.”
Mayor Katie Rosenberg shared similar sentiments. “I won’t support another extension,” Rosenberg says. “I won’t support any more litigiousness against our council members or the city.”