From Shopping Hub to Urban Revival: The Story of Wausau Center Mall in Wausau, WI

The Beginning of Wausau Center

Wausau Center Mall, located in Wausau, Wisconsin, was an enclosed shopping mall that opened on August 3, 1983. Jacobs Visconsi Jacobs led the mall’s development, while Mid-America Real Estate Group handled the management.

With more than 40 stores and services and three anchor tenants, Wausau Center quickly became a bustling hub for the local community.

The mall’s inception directly responded to the deteriorating state of Wausau’s downtown area, characterized by numerous empty buildings during the late 1970s.

Memories from 2018

In 1979, a referendum was passed to allow the Jacobs Visconsi & Jacobs Group to build the mall, resulting in the demolition of approximately 67 buildings. A five-day celebration commemorated the mall’s grand opening, attracting residents and visitors alike.

The original anchor stores were Sears, J. C. Penney, and Prange’s (later Younkers), major shopping destinations for the community. Walgreens, another original tenant, was also a part of the mall until 2003, when it relocated to central Bridge Street.

The Evolution of Wausau Center: The Golden Years

During its nearly 40-year history, Wausau Center underwent several changes and renovations to keep up with the evolving retail landscape. In 2006, mall owners embarked on a renovation project that included new seating areas and an improved mall entrance, providing a more welcoming atmosphere for shoppers.

McDonald’s expanded the food court two years later, using space vacated that same year. This expansion provided shoppers with a wider variety of dining options and enhanced the mall’s appeal as a community gathering place.

The mall was also known for hosting various events and activities throughout the years, making it a lively and popular destination for families and friends to enjoy their weekends or holidays.

Timeline of Wausau Center
August 3, 1983 Mall Opening
2003 Walgreens relocates
2006 Mall renovations
2008 Food court expansion
2014 – 2018 Loss of anchor stores
June 2019 HOM Furniture opens

The Decline and Closure of Wausau Center

Despite the efforts to modernize and maintain its appeal, Wausau Center experienced a decline as the retail landscape shifted.

Between 2014 and 2018, Wausau Center witnessed the departure of all three anchor stores, with Younkers being the final one to shut its doors. This loss significantly impacted the mall’s foot traffic and overall vibrancy.

However, in June 2019, HOM Furniture opened as the center’s only anchor store, acquiring the previously closed Younkers location. While this new addition brought some life back to the mall, it was not enough to reverse the decline.

A New Beginning: The Redevelopment of Wausau Center

Recognizing the need for change, Wausau Center was sold to Wausau Opportunity Zone, Inc. (WOZ) on February 4, 2020. The sale did not include HOM Furniture and two parking ramps. The mall was scheduled for demolition in 2021 to make way for a multimillion-dollar redevelopment project.

This new development aims to breathe new life into the downtown area by incorporating residential and retail spaces, office spaces, restaurants, entertainment venues, and green spaces. The mall closed its doors permanently in April 2021, with demolition beginning on May 17, 2021.

Construction teams spent approximately eight weeks dismantling the buildings and foundations, leaving behind HOM Furniture, the pair of parking ramps, and the still-standing JCPenney building.

Due to its position above the western parking ramp, the JCPenney building was temporarily left intact but was scheduled for removal later.

Wausau Center Redevelopment
April 5, 2021 Mall closes permanently
May 17, 2021 Demolition begins
April 2023 Construction begins on new development

The Future of Downtown Wausau

As of April 2023, construction has commenced on the former Wausau Mall area. Downtown Wausau is buzzing with excitement and anticipation as the new development takes shape.

The area is expected to become a vibrant mixed-use space featuring new apartments, restaurants, and retail spaces, transforming the downtown landscape.

The redevelopment project reflects Wausau’s commitment to creating a thriving urban core that meets the needs of its residents and attracts visitors. As we look forward to the completion of the new development, it’s hard not to feel nostalgic about the memories created at Wausau Center.

A Tribute to Wausau Center

As we reminisce about the Wausau Center and its impact on our community, we remember the good times spent shopping, dining, and socializing with friends and family.

So while it’s sad to see the iconic mall go, it’s heartening to know that downtown Wausau’s future is shaped by the community’s evolving needs and aspirations.

From the bustling days of the mall’s heyday to the final moments before its closure, Wausau Center will always have a special place in the hearts of those who spent countless hours within its walls.

As we say goodbye to the mall, we look forward to the new memories created in the revitalized downtown Wausau.

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