City to pay off Riverlife liens

Funds totaling $2.5 million to be paid back through tax increment financing, no additional city incentives to be used for the project.

Wausau riverlife development. MWC photo by Chris Conley.
Wausau riverlife development. MWC photo by Chris Conley.

WAUSAU, WI (WSAU) -- Tuesday's city council meeting brought the announcement of a development agreement between Gorman and Company and the City of Wausau that allows for the restart of the Riverlife project.

Economic Development Director Chris Schock says part of the agreement includes a $2.5 million payment by the city to satisfy liens against the foundation left by previous developers, a number that represents the city's original planned investment in the development.

The development stalled last spring when previous developers racked up millions in unpaid construction bills. Mike Frantz was formally removed as the developer in August, and the city prepared new RFP's. Gorman and Company, based in Madison, emerged as the preferred choice over Wausau-based Riverlife Wausau, LLC.

As part of the development agreement, the city's $2.5 million payment will be paid back by the developers through tax increment financing. Schock says that means that the development will essentially be money-neutral for the city. "From a taxpayer perspective, it does square up and the city is made whole through this process which we are obviously happy to see. We do still need to sign final agreements but this is an important step."

Additionally, Schock says the city is in the process of getting reimbursements from former developer Barker Financial. "They will repay the full amount that they owe the city. In fact, they will pay more than what they owe in their balance to offset the legal expenses the city has incurred through the process."

Schock emphasized that there will be no additional city incentives to complete the project.

Construction on the site is expected to resume this spring. Schock says he expects one building to be all apartments with the other a mixed use of office, retail, and residential space. The apartment building will likely be completed first while discussions over the makeup of the second building continue. "They've discussed changing some of the use ratios, they might add more of one use and less of another."

In their original proposal, Gorman said they would like to have discussions with businesses that had already committed to the development to gauge those numbers.

"This is just another step in the process. We don't want to be too excited yet, but it's another positive move. We are confident in Gorman's abilities, we've done many projects with them previously, and they have an outstanding reputation," he added.