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Wausau Neighborhood Revitalization Effort Being Considered by City

Landlords question need for CARE - Landlords expected to oppose renewal plan

(This is the first in a series of three articles regarding the neighborhood revitalization effort in Wausau, Wisconsin.  Click on the links below this article to view the other articles.)

Dozens of landlords plan to attend the Wausau City Council meeting on Tuesday, most of them likely in opposition of a new neighborhood renewal initiative in the heart of the city.

Proponents of the initiative headed by Mayor Linda Lawrence, meanwhile, plan to urge the council to accept a $125,000 interest-free loan from the state to buy and renovate an east-side building that would serve as the home base for the Core Area Renewal Effort, or CARE.

Approval of the loan would mark the council's first major vote in support of CARE, which Lawrence kicked off three months ago in an attempt to address crime and neighborhood deterioration in the central part of the city.
If the council rejects the loan and the building purchase, however, it could deal a serious blow to the initiative in its infancy.

The CARE initiative began as weekly brainstorming sessions among City Hall officials and has since expanded to include more than a dozen community members with goals ranging from improved housing to decreased crime. It also has raised some objections from landlords, who feel they have been unfairly targeted by the initiative's focus on rental properties.

"The concept behind the program is sound," said John Fischer, vice president of the Wausau Area Apartment Association, a local landlord group. But he argues that the city should work with landlords to enforce existing laws rather than create new programs that replicate those already in place.

"Spending money on anything that isn't going to accomplish anything is a concern," said Fischer, who also works as director of operations at the Schofield-based Emmerich & Associates and has been a spokesman for local landlords in the debate over CARE.

Fischer expects at least 30 of the apartment association's 70 landlords to attend the council meeting on Tuesday to listen to and participate in the debate.

Lawrence is rallying her own group of supporters, recruited from the Friday morning CARE meetings. Members of CARE's steering committee include Wausau Police Chief Bill Brandimore, city property inspector Cliff Ambriz, state Department of Corrections field supervisor Mike Williams and Jefferson Street resident Ted Reischl, an outspoken critic of those he holds responsible for the central area's deterioration.

The group spent most of its meeting Friday listening to organizers of a similar neighborhood renewal effort, Free to Grow, talk about their work with residents living just south of Bridge Street and east of the Wisconsin River. Free to Grow is a national initiative designed to combat substance abuse among children by improving living conditions.

Local coordinator Shannon Young contacted Lawrence a few weeks ago to say that Free to Grow already is achieving some of the goals set by CARE.

"I'm embarrassed I didn't know more about this, or anything about this," Lawrence said during the Friday meeting.
The problems and solutions identified by both initiatives overlap, but grant support for Free to Grow expires in May 2005. Members of the CARE group want to start now working with Free to Grow to continue the work after Free to Grow ends and to use the program as a model within the larger CARE target area.

Lawrence asked the Free to Grow coordinators to explain their program to the City Council on Tuesday.
Under the CARE initiative, the city would hire a neighborhood services coordinator and an extra police officer using Community Development Block Grant money and contributions from local foundations. They would be based in the former Sorenson's Floral building at 903 N. Seventh St.

But before the city buys and renovates that building, proponents must assuage the doubt of some council members, who have raised concerns that CARE services already are being provided by other agencies and that the city shouldn't buy a building, even with the help of the loan.

"I'm a little nervous about (Tuesday) because of all the political baggage this has taken on," Lawrence said Friday.

Council must build support for CARE plan, December 15, 2003

Council tables CARE proposal, December 17, 2003

(Written by David Paulsen,, December 14, 2003 and reprinted with permission from Wausau Daily Herald)


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Free To Grow is a national program supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation with direction and technical assistance provided by the Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University.