Streetwise: Compass eyeing vacant Sears, bistro a labor of love

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By:  Laura Schulte, USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

A downtown business is giving artists the chance to share their work with the community, and Compass Properties may be taking over the development of the vacant Sears space attached to Wausau Center mall. 

Streetwise is the Wausau Daily Herald's business news, keeping you updated on new stores, restaurants and other businesses you should know about. Each week we collect the local business news here to give you a quick rundown of what's happening in your community. 

At first glance, the building at 319 Fourth St. seems a little plain. 

It's a small, gray building, right across from the old Filmore theater building, with a sign hanging outside that reads "319 Gallery & Bistro." 

But inside, jewelry dangles from hangers, photos and paintings adorn the walls. In some places, sculptures take up floor space. It's a warm, inviting boutique selling handmade art. 

The 319 Galley and Bistro is the result of a dream three friends had more than five years ago. They wanted to offer a space for local artists to display their works, with an eye for art that might be excluded from other local galleries, giving more local artists the opportunity to show off their work to more than just friends and family. 

A prominent downtown developer has a proposal to redevelop the vacant Sears building in the Wausau Center mall. 

The Sears store closed in August 2016 and the city purchased the site later that year. In December 2016, the city OKed a plan by Eau Claire-based Micon Cinemas to put a movie theater in the spot, but those plans fell apart in 2017 after Micon and the mall owner Rialto Capital Management did not reach an agreement relating to a the wall the mall shares with the store. That left the city seeking to regroup and find a new way forward, either for the theater or another developer. 

On Jan. 18, the city's Economic Development Committee spent more than an hour in closed session before emerging to announce interest in the space from Compass Properties, the downtown landlord and developer of The Palladian condiminiums and other projects. City officials declined to discuss what Compass's proposal entailed and whether Micon Cinemas would still be involved with a new proposal.

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