Written by David Eckmann
As we enter the spring and summer months, our community will have the opportunity to observe transformational changes that will begin to shape both the economic and visible landscape of the greater Wausau community for the future. From the revitalization of Downtown Wausau to the vista of Rib Mountain State Park, opportunities abound to propel our community forward.
Wausau Center Mall Redevelopment
At the heart of the downtown transformation is the process of razing the Wausau Center Mall. The mall served the community well for nearly 40 years. However, in a 21st-century economy, it is paramount that communities reinvent themselves as they compete to attract and retain businesses and talented workforces. Vibrant and thriving downtowns are an important element of that reinvention.
During the summer of 2021, the Wausau Center Mall will be demolished, beginning at the Sears side of the mall. Throughout the mall demolition project, HOM Furniture will remain open — as will the Sears parking ramp, which can be utilized for surrounding businesses and the Marathon County Courthouse.
Removal of the mall creates an opportunity for new development in an 8-city-block area. New development will revitalize the downtown economy by providing commercial investments and by bringing greater opportunity for those who seek downtown living. Getting this key piece of real estate performing as a revenue stream to city government (via property taxes) and county government (via sales tax) is critical.
Hear what local professionals are saying about the mall redevelopment plans — and see renderings of some of the exciting ideas mapped out for the space — in the video below.
Redevelopment plans for the site of the Wausau Center Mall and surrounding area include a mix of housing, retail, and hospitality integrated with an open, urban landscape including a beer garden, 4-season public market, and a winding pathway down to the river. The goal is to create a downtown destination where community members can live, dine, and play in a modern, inviting atmosphere.
To view further videos and project renderings, please visit https://www.greaterwausau.org/woz. A communication portal will also be established in the coming weeks for community stakeholders to learn more about the mall demolition process and phases.
Rib Mountain / Granite Peak Ski Area Expansion
If one were to gaze to the west from the roof of today’s Wausau Center Mall, squarely in their line of sight lies Rib Mountain and Granite Peak Ski Area. Over the past 3 months, the Greater Wausau Prosperity Partnership — working closely with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and community stakeholders — engaged in a property planning process to better understand the opportunities that might come with expanded outdoor recreation activities associated with Rib Mountain State Park and Granite Peak Ski Area.
It has become clear that the State of Wisconsin and our greater Marathon County community — situated at the crossroads of commerce at the intersection of I-39 and Hwy 29 — are fortunate to have a geographic feature like Rib Mountain. Rib Mountain State Park and the ski area have greater economic potential to draw people for enhanced leisure activities and are increasingly important to serve to attract and retain talented workers who seek year-round outdoor recreation amenities, further enhancing our economic future.
Becoming a destination community is vitally important in our economic “big picture.” The work taking place in Downtown Wausau and the opportunities for consideration at Rib Mountain State Park are intertwined and illustrate the importance of taking a comprehensive strategic approach to economic development. (View the Greater Wausau Region Economic Development Strategic Plan [PDF], developed by TIP Strategies and funded by Marathon County Government on behalf of the Greater Wausau Chamber of Commerce and MCDEVCO).
What is apparent through community and State of Wisconsin engagement is that a broader, more future-focused view is taking shape to enhance and grow the greater Wausau community. Ready — Let’s GROW!
David Eckmann, EdD
President / CEO | Greater Wausau Chamber of Commerce
Dr. David Eckmann serves as the President/CEO of the Greater Wausau Chamber of Commerce. With over 25 years of cumulative experience in business, higher education, workforce development, and economic development, Dave possesses a breadth of knowledge of systems that play a role in building thriving and competitive communities. Dave believes that everyone, during their lifetime, should strive to give back to society in some way. He served in the U.S. Army as Combat Medic spending time in the Sinai Peninsula in the peacekeeping force between Egypt and Israel. Further commitment to service also includes serving as an elected official on Village Government and as a certified volunteer Fire Fighter. Dave has been married for over 30 years to his wife, Pam. They have 2 children, Samantha and Jacob, and 2 Siberian huskies, Nikita and Sparrow. Email David Eckmann.
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