By: Bob Dohr, Wausau Daily Herald, June 28, 2014
WAUSAU – The Riverview Towers apartment building on East Grand Avenue in Wausau is looking a whole lot newer.
Eleven million dollars newer.
A recently completed renovation project at the 10-story building spanned 20 months and was accomplished through a partnership between Oregon, Wis.-based Gorman & Co. and the Wausau Community Development Authority, which manages the building.
CDA director Ann Werth said the Authority contributed $2.5 million to the project, a Federal Home Loan Bank grant accounted for $750,000 and the remaining funds came from tax credits obtained through the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority.
“It was completely gutted and it was done by keeping all the tenants in place, as well,” Werth said.
The new-look apartments feature high-grade, planked vinyl flooring, maple cabinets and an open floor plan. An L-shaped kitchen replaces the old galley kitchen.
Achieving that modern, spacious feel within the confines of the budget — and the confines of the small apartments — was the biggest challenge, said Ted Matkom, Wisconsin market president for Gorman & Co.
“The units are about 500 square feet and we really wanted an open kitchen, an open concept that was an updated 21st century-type of design within something that was built in 1969,” Matkom said.
Mission accomplished, according to resident Dale Sutton, 75.
“Even though it’s the same square footage, it makes the apartment seem larger, more open,” Sutton said.
All the kitchens are now wheelchair-accessible, too.
“They’re all designed so someone with a wheelchair will have a turning radius, where before you couldn’t even get a wheelchair in the galley kitchen,” Matkom said.
Werth said they made sure 16 units were vacant prior to the start of the work. The work was done floor by floor, with tenants moving temporarily into the vacant units while their floor was being worked on.
“Every 45 days we did another floor,” Werth said.
Sutton, who has lived in the building for 10 years, said the inconvenience was worth it.
“It’s beautiful, I love it,” Sutton said. “It was hassle while they were doing it that two years. It was noisy and dusty, but the end product turned out beautiful.”
Riverview Towers is open to individuals or couples who meet income requirements and who are at least 55 years of age or disabled.
Werth says there are new finishings throughout, air conditioning in each of the 149 units, a new roof, new boilers, and new plumbing and heating systems.
The building’s hallways and common areas have been dressed up with artwork, a key piece of the improvement puzzle, Matkom said.
“The work that we did in the corridors and common areas to make this an inviting and not institutional living space is really on the top of the list as far as what public housing should look like,” Matkom said. “We really made this an inviting place to live.”
Werth said the upgrades will improve day-to-day life for residents.
“Number one, we did every energy efficiency we could possibly do, including sealing up any leaks, so it’s going to make the tenants warmer in the winter and more comfortable in the summertime, especially by adding air conditioning to the units,” Werth said. “It also supplies a number of additional services — computer labs, an indoor fitness facility, outdoor fitness equipment — all those add to quality of life, as well.”