Wausau Mall Owners Give City May 31 Deadline For Economic Assistance

If City Council Doesn't Develop Plan, Mall May Default On Loan

Above, the now-closed JC Penny at the Wausau Center Mall. Photo: Glen Moberg/WPR News.

The owner of the troubled Wausau Center Mall has given the city a deadline of May 31 to commit to an economic assistance plan.

The Wausau Center Mall lost one of its three anchors this year when JC Penney closed its store after being downtown for more than 100 years. Now, mall owner CBL & Associates Properties wants a quick response from city leaders to its plea for help, according to City Council President Romey Wagner.

“They need to know if we’re going to partner with them, if we’re going to support them to keep the mall going – to get it revitalized,” said Wagner. “And they gave us a date of the end of this month. The threat is there for them to default on their loan if they don’t think they can make it work, or to sell it.”

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The mall owners are asking for concessions in parking lot fees and the land lease agreement, and may want more than that. Wagner says the situation is impacted by the way the lease is structured for the remaining two mall anchors.

“People should know that we own the land and they own the mall; Younkers and Sears are not their tenants,” said Wagner. “They have separate contracts on their pieces of property.”

The city is reaching out to other stakeholders, including members of the Marathon County Board. The chair of its Economic Development Committee, Jim Rosenberg, says what happens in Wausau affects the entire county.

“It’s more than just the matter of it being the county seat here,” said Rosenburg. “The economy in this region is highly dependent on what happens in the city of Wausau. So if we allow it to turn into East St. Louis, we’re all going to be worse off for it whether you happen to live in the city of Wausau or not.”

The Wausau City Council takes up the mall request on Tuesday. A meeting with regional stakeholders is set for early June.