WAUSAU (WAOW) -
Wausau's mall is begging for a lifeline as it struggles to survive. Mall owners have asked the city council to stop charging it rent for one year. They hope this move will save money, and attract more business to a mall that's lost several stores.
It's a staple in downtown Wausau.
“It's vital to our economy, not only the city but our downtown," said Wausau Mayor Jim Tipple.
The Wausau Center Mall opened its doors more than 30 years ago.
“It really set the anchor for our downtown," explained Tipple.
But now, the mall is in trouble. At a meeting Tuesday, the city's finance and economic development committees recommended cutting the mall a break.
“We need to partner with them, they rent from us, to help them keep the mall going," said Romey Wagner, Wausau city council member.
The proposal would mean Wausau would charge the mall just one dollar for rent. The city owns the land the mall sits on. The deal could save the mall $146,000.
“There was concern that they would take our money and run and let the mall default. But, there a big corporation, they have a reputation, we talked through those things and we feel confident they'll be a good partner with the city of Wausau,” explained Wagner.
Newsline 9 reached out to the mall's parent company, CBL and Associates Properties, but nobody called us back. The mall's general manager also stayed silent.
We spoke with the owner of one of the mall's stores, Hoffman's Hobbies, by phone. Owner Bill Hoffman said if the proposal means attracting more business, that would benefit everyone.
“We need a reason for people to come shop in downtown Wausau,” said Wagner. “That way even the little stores along the 400 block get the gravity of those coming to the mall."
The city council will vote on the proposal at their April 22nd meeting.
JC Penney is set to close in less than a month. The mayor says that's the biggest priority facing the mall right now. In fact, the committees also recommended hiring a consultant to deal with vacancies.