Wausau Transformation Enters the Next PhaseFebruary 21, 2022
The shared vision for revitalizing downtown Wausau is moving closer to reality now that the Wausau Center Mall is razed and 7.5 acres await redevelopment.
“This is a true gift to our community,” said Dave Eckmann, president of Wausau Opportunity Zone Inc. (WOZ). “Most downtowns would love to procure this amount of space for future opportunities.”
The initiative to reimagine the site was organized and funded by the Dwight & Linda Davis Foundation and Judd S. Alexander Foundation in a partnership with the City of Wausau.
Tearing down the aging Wausau Center Mall was a significant step forward in the redevelopment process. The first phase kicked off in the Spring of 2021 with a strategic communications campaign to keep the community informed and engaged in the Downtown Refresh Wausau movement. Over 400,000-square-feet of retail space was razed between May 21 and July 21, with the iconic mall entrance on Third Street and Washington Street being the last structure removed.
WOZ collaborated with the City of Wausau, local businesses, downtown stakeholders, and community members to ensure that the demolition went smoothly, and downtown storefronts and summer events were still accessible.
“It was a successful operation,” said Eckmann. “The demolition finished ahead of schedule; we stayed on budget and disruptions to businesses were greatly mitigated.”
Making sure that businesses continued to thrive during this stage was a primary goal of WOZ, which also assisted several mall tenants with relocation efforts. You can find some of these stores at their new locations:
- Buckle – 226736 Rib Mountain Dr.
- Fashion Mix & Alteration – 701 W. Thomas St.
- Gaming Emporium – 4317 Stewart Ave.
- LensCrafters – 226001 Rib Mountain Dr.
- Maurices – 226590 Rib Mountain Dr.
- Mulligal – 316 Washington St.
- Massage Reflexology Center – 315 N. 3rd St.
- Spencer’s – 226570 Rib Mountain Dr.
- Children’s Museum – Cedar Creek Mall, 10101 Market St.
With phase two looming, WOZ leadership will continue to engage with business owners and local officials to keep the Downtown Refresh Wausau mission on course. WOZ leadership is committed to creating a vibrant, magnetic community to attract and retain a talented workforce for our innovative companies.
“Labor shortages are plaguing the employers in our region and some won’t survive if they can’t fill job openings,” Eckmann said. “This is why we must focus on placemaking to create quality places that people want to live, work and play in.”“We want to create a quality environment that’s culturally rich, visually attractive and socially inviting.
He added that demographics and needs are changing in central Wisconsin . “Transforming downtown Wausau will draw people in and attract greater innovation and economic activity,” Eckmann said.
The preliminary plat—or map of the land area—is currently under review and waiting for City Council’s final approval.
“The plat is used to create individual parcels; some will be used for redevelopment, some for right of way and some for public space,” said Eric Lindman, director of public works & utilities for the city.
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