Thomas St. RFP projects rejected

Artist rendering of proposed townhomes along Thomas Street in Wausau

WAUSAU, WI — More townhomes and a new parking lot won’t be coming to Thomas St. this year.

Tuesday evening Wausau’s Economic Development Committee discussed two proposals to develop 14 remnant parcels along Thomas St. The RFP is for parcels that were leftover from the 2nd phase of the Thomas St. project that began back in 2015.

The main proposal the committee was considering was from Aedifix Holdings. The proposal was for up to 34 townhome units in a mix of 1, 2, and 3-bedroom floorplans spread amongst three different buildings. Units would be two stories in height with attached garages. A separate storage building with additional garage space would also be built. Plans also include a small amount of retail and office space.

A public input session on the proposals was held two weeks ago in the Thomas Street neighborhood. District 3 Alder Tom Killian who represents the area said he heard from residents that they wanted a different housing option for the parcels.

“My takeaway was that many residents at the public input meeting had in fact desired a kind of affordable single-family home. I think that first and foremost we should prioritize our neighborhoods and communities.”

Several citizens from the area also spoke at the Economic Development Committee meeting expressing their desire for single-family homes in the area. Concerns about the proposed project brought up by residents Tuesday included lack of space for parking, issues with the setback of the project from the street, and how the project design wouldn’t fit in with the rest of the neighborhood.

Developer Jason Blenker attended the meeting virtually to answer any questions about the Aedifix proposal. Committee chair Tom Neal asked if he would be able to change the design of the proposal Aedifix submitted to the City after hearing concerns from residents in the area.

Blenker explained that the proposal for the RFP was designed as townhouses to compliment the earlier Thomas St. housing properties built during Phase 1.

“Typically when an RFP comes up, the assumption has been made on the developers part that maybe these meetings [public input meetings] had already happened. And obviously they hadn’t.

“Our assumption was that it was to be a continuation of more of the same. So that’s why we came up with the proposal that we came up with because it was in keeping with what had already been done on Phase 1.”

Blenker also recommended that the city creates RFP’s for sites with public input in mind so developers know what direction to go in when they put together a proposal.

An alternative to the RFP proposals for the Thomas St. parcels was brought up by District 7 Alder Lisa Rasmussen. In a discussion with interim Economic Development Director Ann Werth, Rasmussen learned of a city department that could develop single-family homes.

“The Community Development Department could endeavor to place 5 or 6 single-family homes similar to the ones that they’ve built in other areas of town on parcels we’ve acquired and put them up for sale. They’ve got a couple of them on Sherman St. They’ve got some in the downtown area. They’re nice-looking and there’s a variety of plans, they don’t all look the same.”

Rasmussen also mentioned that going the route of building houses with Community Development would save the city planning time and avoid having to go to the market for proposals. The single-family homes from Community Development would have a less extensive process for development as the City absorbs most of the risk.

After almost an hour of discussion, the committee voted unanimously to reject the RFP proposals for the remnant parcels. Instead, the committee directed the Community Development staff to put together a plan to put single-family homes on the parcels for the next committee meeting. The next Economic Development Committee meeting will be on October 6th.