Wausau City Council to vote on providing $1 Million loan for nonprofit to buy mall

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WAUSAU, Wis (WSAW) -- The Wausau Finance and Economic Development Committees voted to move forward with a non-profit’s request for a $1 million forgivable loan to purchase the Wausau Center Mall. The proposal submitted by the Wausau Opportunity Zone Fund, LLC will be sent to the Wausau City Council to make a final decision in October.

Currently, the city owns the ground underneath the mall, but the actual building, aside from HOM Furniture, belongs Rialto Capital, which is a loan service provider based in Miami.

After the building went on the market, bids for the building were submitted from private investors around the country. WOZ was the only local organization to submit a bid for $3 million and they were selected. However, WOZ's bid can only be made possible with a $1 million loan from the city.

Several alderpersons said this was an opportunity to only ‘knocks once.” Moving forward with the loan would stop an out-of-state company from purchasing the space and leaving the city little power over what will become of the prime property located in downtown Wausau.

“This shows that the city is supportive of the efforts that are being undertaken by the philanthropic organizations in this community to obtain and acquire local control of the mall,” said Joe Mella who is representing the Wausau Opportunity Zone Fund.

WOZ, which is funded by the Judd S Alexander Foundation and Dwight and Linda Davis Foundation was only created to purchase the property. If the deal goes through, the city of Wausau will no longer own the land property rights to the mall or the airspace above the building. WOZ would officially become the new owner of the space and will work with the city to benefit the entire downtown area.

“We have an opportunity to get local control and get local input into what could happen to that property. An out of state investor is not going to care at all,” added Mella.

But the proposal did not win 100% of the vote. Some lawmakers decided to vote against it citing lack of information. According to meeting documents, there is no clear plan on what will happen to the property after it is sold to WOZ.

The Finance Committee made it clear that funding the loan won’t be a problem due to a surplus in tax dollars and that the deal would not add any debt to the city’s budget.