Wausau Reaches $755K Deal to Save Downtown Mall

In Exchange For Money, Struggling Mall Must Fill Empty Anchor Store And Find Nighttime Attraction

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

The Wausau City Council has unanimously approved a $750,000 deal to save its struggling downtown mall.

The city will give mall owner CBL a one-time payment of $375,000, and will then waive rent and parking ramp fees for the next five years. In return, the mall has to fill the empty JC Penney anchor store and work to get a movie theater or another attraction to bring people downtown at night, according to Council President Romey Wagner.

“We put into the agreement that if they do not fulfill their side of it, that they’re required to give us the money back,” said Wagner.

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Justin Meyers lives in Marshfield, but makes regular business trips to Wausau. He thinks the city has no choice.

“You know, it’s scary to see JC Penney leave, to think of 80,000 square feet just sitting there,” said Meyers. “Hopefully, somebody will come in and fill that space.”

Chris Wood works in a retail store half a block away from the mall. “It seems to me there’d be a million other uses for taxpayer dollars, but if it keeps it alive, it keeps me working,” said Wood.

Margaret Shields, who lives downtown, says she has mixed feelings. “I don’t have the crystal ball,” said Shields. “I don’t know if it will last or not. I don’t know if downtown Wausau can support a mall.”

Wagner says the city has to try to save it.

“What would happen if the mall as we know it shuts down?” said Wagner. “The 700 jobs go away that are in it, and that could and would probably affect the rest of the retail downtown.“

The city council voted 11-0 last night to approve the deal.