We're taking a closer look at a new wave of development in the Wausau area.
Developers say a new chain restaurant is coming soon. This follows news that Dunkin' Donuts is adding two locations to the area.
With all this activity, what can we expect in the future?
Quite a bit, according to community leaders.
"It's getting kind of busy again," said Gaylene Rhoden, Rib Mountain town administrator. She says the economic recession made development a challenge, but things are improving.
In the past few months, the Wausau area has seen a new Panera Bread and Toppers Pizza. The Children's Place plans to move to the downtown mall along with national pretzel and coffee chains. Dunkin' Donuts announced it's moving to Rib Mountain and Weston. And more chains are expected.
"It seems like people in Wausau do gravitate towards the chain when it does come," said Victor Anderson, property manager and broker at Lokre Companies. "A good example would be Applebee's which was like the first chain. It's been here for a long time and it's still busy."
So what's bringing these chains to the Wausau area? Community leaders have some ideas.
"The quality of life in Wausau is, I think, bar none," said Wausau Mayor Jim Tipple.
"We already have the existing big name restaurants already in our community, so by having Texas Roadhouse, by having Olive Garden, I think it makes it more attractive," added Rhoden.
Some chains that people want still aren't here such as Red Lobster. Heidi Schauer, spokeswoman for Darden Restaurants, Red Lobster's parent company, tells Newsline 9 there are no plans to build one in Wausau at this time.
But developers say in the long run, it could happen.
"It's amazing how quick they change their mind, and they redirect," said Anderson.
New chains tend to get people excited, but not everyone.
"I really wouldn't like to see any more chains," said Beth Martin of Wausau. "I really like the individuality of the local businesses downtown."
Others echo those thoughts.
But community leaders expect more chains will come, especially with the recent flurry of activity.
Next month leaders from the Wausau metro area will travel to Chicago for a conference. The goal—to pitch central Wisconsin as a great place to do business.
"It's one stop shopping whether you're looking at the city of Wausau, or whether you're looking at Rib Mountain, looking at Weston, whatever," said Jeff Zriny, Wausau Region Chamber of Commerce president & CEO.
"We're marketing ourselves as an area," added Rhoden.
It's an area that seems ripe for growth.
According to Anderson, the developer from Lokre Companies, an announcement is expected soon about a new chain coming to the Rib Mountain area. He also tells Newsline 9 a second chain is expected to announce another location in the Weston area.