As Merrill looks ahead to 2014, a number of development projects in the city are underway or anticipated in the new year.
The city’s Redevelopment Authority (RDA) met Tuesday morning to discuss a slate of new projects going on in the city’s various TIF districts.
East side
On Merrill’s far east side, the new Los Mezcales Mexican restaurant has opened for business next to the AmericInn. The project broke ground last summer and opened in late December.
The new Walmart supercenter near the intersection of Hwys. 51 and 64 is projected to open in mid-April. The reconstruction of the Pine Ridge Avenue/Hwy. 64 intersection is expected to resume as soon as weather allows in the spring.
There is an accepted offer to purchase by Kwik Trip the Pine Ridge Restaurant/Cenex gas station on Pine Ridge Avenue (see separate story).
The city has been meeting with the real estate broker who represents the Pine Ridge Plaza, including the space currently leased by Walmart to continue communications on potential future tenants and site redevelopment.
Downtown
In the downtown area, a new parking area that also provides access to parking south of downtown businesses was completed last fall.
Demolition of the Lincoln House building is progressing through the winter, though currently stalled due to the extremely cold weather. The city owns the property and is seeking developers interested in redeveloping the site once the building is gone. Mike Morrissey of Redevelopment Resources noted that potential developers will get a better perspective on the site after the building is removed.
A new business is soon to open at 808 East First Street. The business will be a clay pottery studio and restaurant, also serving as distributor for clay molds in the area. The new owners are planning a total overhaul of the building, said Lincoln County Economic Development Director Susan Ryman. The RDA voted to recommend that the city council approve a $10,000 economic development loan to the new owners to assist with the renovation of the building.
West Side
On the west side of Merrill, the former vocational school building at 419 W. Main St. will be demolished by June 2014. The city and Lincoln County Economic Development are assisting the new owner with identifying potential franchise options for future site redevelopment.
Bob’s West 64 has purchased the parcel to the west and demolished the former structure for future expansion of the business.
The former Hurd Windows & Doors property is now owned by Merrill Area Development Corp. Part of the site is being sold and should be occupied by a manufacturer relocating from Tomahawk early this year. Expansion of the manufacturing workforce is anticipated as the machining and welding operation would bring about 50 jobs.
 Ryman said she is pursuing two other businesses to locate operations on the former Hurd property, and a third is looking at the site. City Finance Director Kathy Unertl reported that the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation has awarded a $120,000 site assessment grant for the property.