Wausau Opportunity Zone (WOZ) is pleased to announce the completion of the Second Street extension, new sidewalks and more parking in Wausau's downtown development zone, just in time for the highly anticipated Children's Imaginarium opening and holiday shopping season.
“It allows for easier entry and exit points, making it more convenient for people to reach their destinations,” said Dave Eckmann, president of WOZ. “Opening this region to traffic flow is another significant step in the overall urban revitalization of Wausau.”
Second Street—between Washington and Forest Streets—is open to two-way traffic, and sidewalks are paved along the street and in front of the Children’s Imaginarium, extending east to the former Sears Ramp. “The Third Street extension going south to meet up with Jackson Street will be constructed in late 2024 or early 2025,” said Allen Wesolowski, city engineer.
Progress at a Glance
- Returning ownership to its hometown roots, WOZ purchased the Wausau Center Mall in February 2020 with funding from the Dwight and Linda Davis Foundation and the Judd S. Alexander Foundation in partnership with the City of Wausau.
- Wausau Center Mall demolition started on May 21, 2021 at the former Sears building and moved west with minimal disruptions, stopping at the JC Penney building. HOM Furniture and two parking ramps remained open throughout this phase while summer concerts and annual events were in full swing.
- On July 21, 2021, demolition ended with the mall's main entrance falling, leaving 7.5 acres for the redevelopment to serve a sustainable and prosperous future. On-street parking was later added on Washington Street.
- Children's Imaginarium continued planning and raising funds throughout 2022 to be one of the first new attractions to open in the development zone.
- In June of 2022, WOZ released further plans of the mixed-use space to fortify downtown Wausau with housing, businesses and entertainment areas.
- Throughout the summer of 2023 WOZ worked closely with the DNR to successfully remediate and close the development site for the season until the summer of 2024 when construction on the Foundry on Third starts.
- Street construction started in July of 2023 to extend Second Street from Washington Street to Forest Street and eventually extend Third Street south to Jackson Street, with the Second Street extension ready for two-way traffic in November.
Second Street Extension is a Sign of Great Things to Come
One of the notable improvements in the development zone is the extension of Second Street, which now allows for two-way travel through the area for the first time. It also includes 14 on-street parking spaces. “The expansion not only enhances connectivity within the area, but it also offers a fresh perspective on the downtown,” said Eckmann. “The community gets to witness all the possibilities from a new angle which is truly inspiring.”
HOM Furniture, previously located within the mall, has a new main entrance facing Third Street, giving the store a new and improved presence. Construction on the north façade of both HOM and Children’s Imaginarium began in July.
Enclosed parking will continue to be available at the Sears and J.C. Penney ramps, however, the elevator in the Penney’s ramp is not operational as reconstruction plans are currently under consideration.
"Construction crews have done an exceptional job to improve the area's infrastructure thus far. Their work sets the foundation for the exciting housing and business developments that lie ahead in 2024 and beyond," said Eckmann.
As the development zone continues to evolve and prosper, WOZ and the City of Wausau remain committed to creating a thriving downtown that offers enhanced accessibility, connectivity and opportunities for all residents and visitors.
What's Happening in Downtown Wausau
Congratulations to Café 429 (formerly La Prima Deli) for being a finalist for the Main Street Makeover contest, a statewide grant competition!
Saturday, November 25
Shop locally for your holiday gifts or for yourself! And enjoy a cup of coffee, lunch, or dinner at local restaurants. Small Business Saturday is packed with in-store events and opportunities to take pictures with Santa. Visit your favorite stores and stop in at the new stores and businesses. Go to Wausau River District for specific in-store specials, deals, and events.
November 25 – December 10
The Wausau River District encourages the community to text to vote for a chance to win a $100 gift certificate from their favorite participating business. The winning businesses will receive a major award on December 11 to place in their window. Visit Wausau River District Holiday Window Display Contest.
Friday, December 1 starting at 6:30 p.m.
Get into the holiday spirit viewing the magical twinkle lights of the parade floats. Candy will be handed out from floats. The parade leaves Marathon Park at 6:30 and finishes at the 400 Block, where there will be a lighting of the Holiday Tree afterward. For more information, check out Wausau Events.
Friday, December 1 from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Come enjoy a cookie and visit Santa and Mrs. Claus inside the City Square Office Center before and after the parade. This is a free event. Visit Wausau Events.
Saturday, December 9 from 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Enjoy beer samples while you do your holiday shopping! Each participating location provides 2 beer samples. Take advantage of the shuttle for ale trail attendees to visit 14 locations on both sides of the river safely. More information and tickets, go to Wausau River District Holiday Ale Trail.
Plenty of Parking in Downtown
With the convenience of the Passport Parking app, finding a parking spot downtown has never been easier and the first two hours are free. Parking is also free in the evenings after 6 p.m. and on weekends. Click here to learn more about downtown parking locations, costs, and pay stations.
Wausau Opportunity Zone, Inc. is leading the charge to inform Greater Wausau of progress made during the development phases of Downtown Wausau. WOZ collaborates with the Greater Wausau Prosperity Partnership, local governments, businesses and organizations to involve and engage the community. To learn more, visit downtownrefresh.com.