Switcheroo: the Riverlife/Mall swap looks a little different than initially presented
And a hint at why so many Wausau projects are approved and then never happen or change
An early November Economic Development Committee meeting contained a small update item that didn’t look like much on the surface.
In actuality, it set off a firestorm of controversy involving two of the biggest projects in Wausau: the redevelopment of the Wausau Center mall, and the redevelopment of former industrial land along the riverfront, a project called Riverlife.
The basics are this: Chuck Ghidorzi, who is serving as the project manager for the mall redevelopment, got up during the update portion of the meeting to inform the committee that T. Wall Enterprises, which had been approved to build the third Riverlife project (residential and commercial), would instead start work on the first project in the Wausau Center mall redevelopment.
This came as a complete surprise to the committee, which months ago had approved T. Wall to develop the Riverlife project following a competitive bid (which, if you didn’t know, comes with the expectation that you will build said project in a timely manner). It felt like a bit of a rug pull to those committee members who wondered what exactly happened and who had authorized it. And, it sparked criticism from council members in general about how the mall redevelopment project was being conducted. Considering the considerable amount of city money invested in the project, staying informed before decisions were made, especially when those decisions involve rug-pulling a project awarded through a competitive bid, seemed the least they could do.
At the most recent economic development committee meeting, Terrance Wall was on hand, braving a snowy Tuesday evening to explain things in more detail. Following his explanation, it at least makes a little more sense; but it also varies considerably from Ghidorzi’s explanation. That leaves more questions than it answers, not just about how the mall/riverlife switcheroo really happened, but potentially a huge flaw in the way the city treats project development.
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