While Demolition on CenterPoint MarketPlace Begins, Wausau Center Thrives

By: Madeline Anderson Email
By: Madeline Anderson Email

After years of decreased foot traffic and tenancy, the Stevens Point downtown mall is going the way of most urban malls in America. The power's been turned off and the utilities shut down at CenterPoint MarketPlace to prepare for next week's demolition. It's part of a trend called 'dead malls' that many cities are seeing.

At Wausau Center, though, the building is still standing despite the odds. The general manager says sales are up 7 percent since last year. But it's certainly a unique example.

The staple for the U.S. retail industry has become more of a ghost town than a bustling social setting in recent years.

"The mall had been failing since the minute it was constructed," Stevens Point Mayor Andrew Halverson said. "It was too late for the market forces that were at work and the other regional shopping centers to ever have this facility really be successful."

Like so many before it, the enclosed CenterPoint MarketPlace in downtown Stevens Point has had to compete with a newly popular outdoor shopping experience, as well as the national chain stores that are popping up in the suburbs and along highways.

That's not the case in Wausau.

"Anytime a new business opens in downtown, that's more shoppers that might have lunch in our food court or buy something on their break," said Megan Lawrence, the general manager of Wausau Center. She credits good ownership and a strong relationship with the city to its continued success after nearly 30 years.

"We're actually owned by CBL Properties and they're one of the largest developers of shopping malls in the United States," Lawrence said. "They're committed to the mall and the community and they've really evidenced that by their ability to attracting retailers to the downtown mall."

Back in Stevens Point, Mayor Halverson is hoping to re-energize the abandoned area.

"Moving all of those students downtown, really being able to make a cornerstone for all future realstate to happen," he said.

The facility will soon be turned over to Mid-State Technical College as they work to renovate the west wing and tear down the rest, reconnecting Third St., which is currently blocked off by part of the building.

"For us to be able to know as a community that we're finally able to move on from the constant conversation of the question, what will happen to this facility, is tremendously filling me with a sense of accomplishment," Halverson said. "And I'm very happy we've been able to do this for the community because they deserve it. And it's finally time to turn the page in the saga that is this building."

The city's Community Development Authority will take bids for the demolition on Thursday and then a company will be chosen on Aug. 14. Halverson says construction could begin as soon as the following day.

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