Is Wausau's development process broken?
What the death of T. Wall Enterprises' Riverlife project tells us about how city development works
The Wausonian has been tracking an unusual pattern that seems to pop up uniquely with Wausau development.
It goes something like this: A project is brought before elected officials. They debate it, weigh in on it and eventually pass it. And then…
Nothing. Months go by and no progress has been made. The Wausonian checks the building site, and it’s empty. No work is happening.
The Wausonian makes inquiries and finds out negotiations have been ongoing, and later, might find out those negotiations are stalled or have deteriorated.
Examples? Remember that fancy theater that was supposed to occupy the former Sears building? Never happened. The first project in the Riverlife development area, under Mike Frantz? Never happened. Turning the former Westside Battery building into an upscale eatery? You guessed it: nada.
A pattern seems to be emerging.
The latest example of this also happens to be another Riverlife project. City leaders last week announced that they were pulling the plug on the third Riverlife project, which would have constructed a mixed-use building in the prime riverfront real estate area. The city council confirmed that decision Tuesday, terminating its contract with T. Wall Enterprises.
From the perspective of the city, one might think that developer T. Wall Enterprises just sat on its hands the whole time. That as one council member said, they weren’t taking Wausau as seriously as their other projects.
So The Wausonian decided to reach out to Mr. Wall to see what was up. In a very lengthy email response, Mr. Wall laid out exactly what is wrong with the city’s development process.
And it ain’t pretty.
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