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Wausau officials meet with mall owner CBL about future revitalization

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Wausau Center Mall
Wausau Center Mall

WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAU) -- The future of the Wausau Center Mall was discussed for about three hours Wednesday behind closed doors. Officers of CBL & Associates met with Wausau’s Economic Development Committee for around two hours, and the committee talked about the issues more after that.

CBL’s Chief Financial Officer Farzana Mitchell did confirm the Wausau Center Mall is in need of help and at a crossroads. He would not say if Wausau is one of the 21 malls CBL hopes to sell. The Tennessee based firm operates 91 malls nationwide.

Committee Chairman Bill Nagle would not discuss what was covered in closed session, not even in general terms, but he expects proposals to help the mall to show up very soon in committee and council meetings.  “I would expect to look at things sooner than later, but that’s just my personal opinion. Keep your eyes peeled soon for agenda items.”

Alderman Keene Winters was involved in the discussions, and is optimistic about CBL’s vision for the mall’s future.  “CBL has presented a vision of that, and some of the things that they’re doing and the negotiations therein are proprietary, so we can’t really talk about exactly what they’re doing, but I think it was a good vision. I think people were generally pleased that they do have a vision for changing the mall in a way that will revitalize it.”

Winters says the changing economy and business market has changed the way people shop, so a fresh approach to the mall is appropriate.  “Revitalizing the downtown mall is something we need to do. It’s 30 years old. It’s not the hip-hop place it used to be, so you have to begin to consider what we’re going to do, whether we’re going to have really three major clothing anchors, or maybe we have to have two or less clothing anchors and some other kinds of anchors.”

When asked if he the city is considering more than a rent forgiveness plan, Winters says yes, but couldn’t go into details yet.  “Yes, they’re looking towards a long-term plan, and that will require a long-term commitment.”

The Wausau Center Mall has several unique arrangements, such as CBL leasing the land the mall sits on from the city, and financial arrangements totalling $144,000 for downtown ramp parking. These payments and more could be part of a mall revitalization plan. The property taxes collected from the mall each year is just over $992,000.

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