Special Report: Wausau's New Look - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Special Report: Wausau's New Look

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WAUSAU (WAOW) -

Newsline 9 has a sneak peak at a plan to bring new life to part of Wausau, and it could come as early as next year.

Wausau leaders say the near west side has been neglected for too long. The streets are run down and buildings stand vacant. After bringing new life to the east side of Wausau's downtown, city officials are turning their attention just across the river.

"They kind of feel like they're the stepchild, and what we need to do is make sure we continue to improve that," said Wausau Mayor Jim Tipple.

Tipple says city leaders consider the near west side downtown and want more people to think of it that way.

"What we want to do is create more attention and say, 'hey, both sides of the river are important to us,'" said Tipple.

That's where the new plan comes in, to turn the area on the west side of the river into something else. The designs are just an idea. The plan would include Second Ave. and Clark St. City officials say one day, they want to bring that theme to more areas of Wausau. Business owners on the near west side say they're excited about the possibilities.

"We've always been sort of the odd person out on the west side, feeling that everything that happened happened downtown. So we're really excited about new things happening over here," said Kari Bender, the owner of the Quilt and Needle Workshop.

The near west side project is just the latest set of renovations for the city. Just a few years ago, revitalization helped bring the 400 Block to what's it's known as today, a cultural hub for the city, filled with a variety businesses and eateries.

"It's a place where neighbors and best friends cross paths and they cross paths as they come together to celebrate community to celebrate culture and also to engage in commerce," said Dawn Follendorf, the director of Main Street Wausau.

One hundred years ago, it was called Courthouse Square, and was the center of the city because it was the center of government. Once the courthouse was torn down, city leaders saw the possibility for something a bigger and better.

"I think the city has a vision of where we want to go. And I think over the last 14 years, we've spent a lot of time and effort, not only in our downtown, but in our entire city," said Tipple.

Mayor Tipple says he's not worried the west side will compete with businesses near the 400 block. Instead, he hopes the two will compliment each other.

"They've got needle shops and their own mantra. I don't think we want to duplicate, I think we want to have their own mantra and create their own downtown, not separate but part of our downtown," said Tipple.

City leaders say there's a hidden market for business on the near west side. They say they hope the revitalization will wake that market up, with a goal of starting that project next year.

"We really have the opportunity to take that and take it up a level. It has the university, it has a neighborhood, it has a strong business climate," said Wausau City Council member David Oberbeck.

The city is working with an urban designer, who will come up with ideas for everything from benches, to trees, to the theme of the area.

"The near west side can have its own unique character and flavor,” said Main Street Wausau Vice President Phil Vilitchka.

"The west side has the ability to draw people into it, to have a unique look,” said Oberbeck.

City leaders say they hope that unique look will one day stretch beyond Second Ave. and Clark St. Wausau officials say the public will be included in conversations about the near west side project, which is just a plan right now.

City leaders say they won't know how much it will cost until the urban designer comes in. Some council members told Newsline 9 they need more information before moving forward, but Wausau leader say they're hopeful the life we see on the 400 Block will find the other side of the river just as appealing.

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