News & Upcoming Events

  • Become one of the 6,000 to donate in 60 days

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    Join Coming Together, a coalition of donors with an important Confluence Arts Center challenge — raise 6,000 donations in 60 days. This is a unique opportunity to show widespread support for the Confluence Project AND secure a $100,000 challenge grant by our Sept. 17 deadline.

    Imagine the possibilities of a collaborative living-learning environment that builds creative connections with the surrounding community. The Confluence Project is committed to supporting a healthy, vibrant downtown. University students, faculty and Eau Claire residents will benefit from new sources of social and cultural engagement that meld the university and community in novel ways.

    It doesn’t require incredible wealth to join Coming Together and help meet the challenge. Donations of any amount qualify toward the match. You can donate right now by simply texting ECARTS to 501501, and a one-time $10 contribution will be added to your cellphone bill or deducted from a prepaid balance. You can text to donate up to three times each month — every individual text donation counts toward the challenge!

    If you want to make a tax-deductible donation larger than $10, please go online, or call Ben Richgruber, executive director, Eau Claire Regional Arts Council at 715-832-2787

    The clock is ticking with only 34 days and 14 hours to go. Please share your support of the Confluence Arts Center with friends and family on Facebook and Twitter, and ask them to become one of the 6,000 contributors.

    Thank you!

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  • Another Step Closer to the Good Life

    August 5, 2014

    UW-Eau Claire announces major gift in support of new event and recreation center

    Reprinted from UW-Eau Claire News Release

    The UW-Eau Claire Foundation is thrilled to announce the largest outright gift to the Foundation in its nearly 60-year history. Blugold alumni John and Carolyn Sonnentag, through their philanthropic foundation, have pledged approximately $10 million in land and money to develop a multipurpose events center that would accommodate at least 7,500 people and replace Zorn Arena as UW-Eau Claire’s largest events venue. The Sonnentag Foundation has committed to transfer ownership of 21 acres along Menomonie Street in Eau Claire to Blugold Real Estate, a subsidiary of the UW-Eau Claire Foundation. The 21 acres currently are owned by County Materials Corp., the Sonnentags’ third-generation family-owned concrete manufacturing company. “Words cannot adequately express the gratitude we feel for the Sonnentags’ generosity in making this gift that will have such a significant and transformative impact both for UW-Eau Claire and for our region,” said UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt. “The goals of both the university and the citizens of Eau Claire to bring a large events venue to our community are one very large step closer to being realized thanks to the Sonnentag Foundation and the generous spirit of John and Carolyn Sonnentag.”

    Through their foundation, the Sonnentags, of Mount Dora, Florida, and formerly of Marathon City, Wisconsin, also have pledged a significant monetary contribution in support of the new events center. The Sonnentag Foundation gifts are being recognized as contributions to the UW-Eau Claire Foundation’s Power of Possible campaign, a comprehensive campaign to raise $60 million in support of people, programs and places at UW-Eau Claire by Dec. 31, 2016, during the year of the university’s centennial celebration.

    To learn more about the Sonnentags’ gift and future plans for the site, go to the news release.

    Ben Richgruber, executive director, Eau Claire Regional Arts Council: “This is great news for the Eau Claire community, we are fulfilling the goals stated in the Clear Vision study and echoed by Eau Claire County residents in the The Good Life: A Cultural Direction for Eau Claire County. When I served as co-chair on the Clear Vision committee, we all firmly believed there was an immediate need for both a cultural arts center and a large capacity event center. Eau Claire can and should have both the Confluence Arts Center and the County Materials Event and Recreation Complex. Bravo! UW-Eau Claire and the Sonnentags for your vision and commitment to Eau Claire.

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  • Why do we keep pushing to improve the quality of life in Eau Claire?

    July 22, 2014

    It’s for the love…

    In February, we received an email after a Confluence Project fundraiser from Lisa Aspenson, owner of Mona Lisa’s Restaurant. She wrote with excitement about the impact of the Confluence Project on the city she loves. How she felt a pulse in the city of what could be – an energy flowing up from the rivers through the coffee shops, the farmer’s market, local businesses and along the bike trails.

    Lisa’s email inspired us. It created a bond amongst Confluence volunteers working to overcome challenges. We succeed in April, and the momentum has continued to build. We made a video to honor Lisa’s steadfast confidence in the Confluence Project, and her inspiration that continues to ring true today.

    We made a video to answer the question: Why do we keep pushing to improve the quality of Life in Eau Claire? Its for the love.

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    Now is the Time to Donate

    It doesn’t require incredible wealth to make a donation to the Confluence Project. Donations of any amount send an important message of support to state government leaders in Madison making decisions on funding the project.

    You can donate right now by simply texting ECARTS to 501501, and a one-time $10 contribution will be added to your cell phone bill or deducted from a prepaid balance.

    You can donate up to three times each month – every individual donation counts! Let your voice be heard in Madison!

    If you want to make a tax deductible donation larger than $10, please go online to EauClaireArts.com/confluence, or call the Eau Claire Regional Arts Council at 715-832-2787.

    Please join us today in support of the Confluence Project: text ECARTS to 501501 or donate online at EauClaireArts.com/confluence.

    Thank you!

     

    Text message donations: a one-time donation of $10.00 will be added to your mobile phone bill or deducted from your prepaid balance. Donor must be age 18+ and all donations must be authorized by the account holder (e.g. parents). By texting YES, the user agrees to the terms and conditions. All charges are billed by and payable to your mobile service provider. Donations are collected for the benefit of the EauClaireArts by the Mobile Giving Foundation and subject to the terms found at www.hmgf.org/t. Message & Data Rates May Apply. You can unsubscribe at any time by texting STOP to short code 91011; text HELP to 91011 for help.

    Provided By: Connect2Give Logo

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  • Coming Together $100,000 Challenge Grant

    July 21, 2014

    Help Us Meet the Challenge

    Community for the Confluence is thrilled to announce Coming Together, a $100,000 challenge grant in support of the Confluence Arts Center. The new campaign, initiated by a coalition of donors, utilizes social media and text-2-give mobile to raise 6,000 donations in 60 days.

    Make your donation now by simply texting ECARTS to 501501, and a one-time $10 charge is added to your cell phone bill or deducted from a prepaid balance.

    You can donate up to three times each month – every individual donation counts toward the 6,000 goal.

    If you want to make a tax deductible donation larger than $10, please go online to EauClaireArts.com/confluence, or call the Eau Claire Regional Arts Council at 715-832-2787.

    The 6,000 donation challenge is approximately 10% of the population of the greater Eau Claire area and greater than the number of signatures which placed the referendum question on the ballot in April. This is a unique opportunity to show broad support for the Confluence Arts Center as state government leaders in Madison make important decisions on funding the project.

    Please join us today in support of the Confluence Arts Center: text ECARTS to 501501 or go online to EauClaireArts.com/confluence.

    Thank you!

     

    A one-time donation of $10.00 will be added to your mobile phone bill or deducted from your prepaid balance. Donor must be age 18+ and all donations must be authorized by the account holder (e.g. parents). By texting YES, the user agrees to the terms and conditions. All charges are billed by and payable to your mobile service provider. Donations are collected for the benefit of the EauClaireArts by the Mobile Giving Foundation and subject to the terms found at www.hmgf.org/t. Message & Data Rates May Apply. You can unsubscribe at any time by texting STOP to short code 501501; text HELP to 501501 for help.
    Provided By: Connect2Give Logo
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  • Demolition of buildings at Confluence Project site to begin the week of July 7, 2014

    July 8, 2014

    News release from Commonweal Development

    Eau Claire, Wis. – Haymarket Concepts, LLC has awarded a contract to complete demolition of the buildings located at the site identified for the Confluence Project to Alliance Steel Construction from Superior, WI. This company was selected as the demolition contractor following a systematic request for proposals and bid process. The following buildings are slated for demolition: Market Square Building, Farmers Store, and the buildings located on the west side of South Barstow from the Eau Claire River to Eau Claire Street. Demolition is scheduled to begin the week of July 7th and may take five to six weeks to complete.The Mixed Use Building site will be ready for the construction of the residential/commercial building early this fall with completion scheduled for June, 2016. The disturbed areas of the arts center site will be filled, seeded and maintained as grass until construction begins on that phase of the project.

    Much of the building material is being salvaged or recycled. Where possible, items with architectural significance have been saved for re-use. Significant attention will be given to the removal and disposition of hazardous building materials to assure compliance with all safety and environmental regulations.

    Haymarket officials said “that while the buildings are a safety hazard and need to be removed, this is significant as it launches a major strategy designed to revitalize the South Barstow Business District.”

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  • Your Story to Tell – Jason Jon Anderson

    July 3, 2014

    by Scott Morfitt, CftC blogger

    Quite simply, if Eau Claire is going to get top-caliber performing acts, we need a new theater.  Many of us have seen Ben Richgruber’s video tour of the State Theatre and understand that though the theatre has it’s charm, it cannot meet the requirements of large scale touring acts.

    To get a good perspective on what top tier acts require from performing arts centers I interviewed Jason Jon Anderson.

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    Jason holds an MFA in Lighting Design and has spent the last seven years as UWEC’s Event Production Coordinator before being promoted to Assistant Director of Conferences, Marketing and Technology.  On top of that in 2012, Jason joined the Bon Iver team as the Production Manager.

    I couldn’t think of anyone better to answer my questions on what will make this these theatre spaces something that will be valuable to the community.  (Note: The interview below is abridged, if you would like to Jason’s full answers you can click here)

    Scott Morfitt: When you were working with Bon Iver on their tour, you got to enter a wide mix of event spaces.  From a production standpoint what are a few of the basic things needed to successfully run a top-tier show?

    Jason Anderson: When selecting a production venue to host national touring act there are a range of things that are looked at. Some of which take into account the need to have a population density large enough to ensure at least the possibility of a sold-out performance.

    Knowing what the profit margins should be for a nation touring show; capacity needs to be around 3000 for a music concert (this could be achieved if the orchestra level had removable seating that would allow the entire first floor to be standing room only) And 1250-1500 fixed seating for theatrical style shows

    SM: Why are these things so important to a production?

    JA: Tours work on a commodity of scale and need to not operate in a manner that generates revenue. In order for national music tours to stop in Eau Claire as opposed to continue to other larger market cities the Confluence needs to hold enough people to make it a profitable venture for a tour to stop.

    Rigging capacities for modern tours is paramount. The ability for a tour to know that they can use their rigging motors to hang the audio systems, video walls and lighting trusses just as they would in any venue ensures that tours can stop.

    Modern accommodations such as catering, lounge spaces, dressing rooms, production offices and wireless internet are the exception. Remember that these spaces serve as tour members’ homes for the day. If it feels like home they will want to come back with this tour or a future/different tour.

    SM: What do you see as the potential for the theatre spaces in the Confluence Project?

    JA: I believe it is only limited to its’ designers/managers imaginations. The mainstage venue should be able to hold concerts for the community’s symphony’s, jazz bands, and theatrical groups. It must be designed to accommodate national theatrical and music concert tours.

    The thrust stage  should be designed to accommodate national and international tours (London’s Globe tours). It will serve as a replacement to Kjer and a modern Riverside Theatre and it will also provide an additional performance space for the ECCT and Theatre Guild.

    The Black Box theatre should serve as a laboratory experimental space that can easily be converted to host backstage music concerts, new     musical reviews, dance performances, art gallery installations and as a gala reception space.

    SM: Is there anything else you would like to add?

    JA: As much as any modern city needs a performing arts center for artistic growth. Eau Claire needs to replace Zorn arena. The need for a large gathering space that can host athletic, commencement and civic engagements in the capacity of 7k-11k people is required. Much as Lacrosse has the Lacrosse Center Eau Claire needs a large Arena.

    We want to hear your Story to Tell. Please contact Scott at contact@communityfortheconfluence.org.

    Stay up-to-date on Confluence events and progress on Facebook and Twitter.

     

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  • Governor Walker Supports the Confluence Project

    June 23, 2014

    Governor Walker announces support of the Confluence Project at Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce Business Luncheon

    “With this project you’ve got a great partnership with the private sector, the public sector coming together. So I’m here today to tell you that I support going forward with this project,” said Gov. Scott Walker.

    Governor Walker went beyond expressing support to stating that should the Regents not approve a $25-million pledge toward the community arts center there are other state options available to make sure the project moves forward.

    “It would help UW-Eau Claire, it would create a civic destination, it would help the downtown area, it would help the arts and it would be good for development,” Walker explained. “We think the state can play a role in leveraging the other resources from the local and private sector.”

    For further coverage of this historic announcement go online to WQOW and WEAU.

     

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  • New Community for the Confluence video needs YOU!

    May 30, 2014

    We need your help on Monday, June 2 at the Davies Center

    We recently began filming a new Community for the Confluence video starring – Eau Claire!

    Earlier this year, after a Confluence fundraiser, we received an email from a local business owner titled “morning thoughts.” The email generated a wave of excitement amongst all the volunteers at Community for the Confluence. One of the CftC social media volunteers stated emphatically, “we need to do something with this!”

    Here is the email that continues to inspired us:

    “It’s an amazing morning, as a native of Eau Claire, this is the first time I woke up feeling this incredible pulse of downtown in my blood! Very exciting times!

    Let’s build a tour for Eau Claire County and any doubtful petitioners.

    …a night with restaurants bursting at the seams with concerts goers anticipating the show at the newly opened venue… Awaking at hip hotel to sip a morning cup of joe before a run on the trail as I contemplate which one of the many launch sites to drop in on the river… There’s a great art opening at the gallery across the street to check out before heading to the concert in the park for night .. We’re going to stay an extra night and either hike or bike on the Chippewa River Trail … Should we check out the other hotel tonight….and head to that restaurant on Water Street …

    … Feel the pulse??

    Oh my god this is exciting…

    I’m looking forward to being part of the movement with all if you progressive minds! This IS our town. Thank you.”

    This email inspired us to create a new video about our community. A vision of what we cherish and value. A day in the life dream of our children, families and friends; of how exceptional Eau Claire is and will continue to be as we embrace growth and new opportunities.

    Filming has begun across the city – at the downtown cleanup, Farmers Market, along the river trails, at local restaurants and hotels and in the parks. Justin Vernon has agreed to provide the film’s soundtrack.

    Now we need your help.

    On Monday, June 2 from 10:00 a.m. to Noon, we will be filming at the UW-Eau Claire Davies Center. We need YOU to be there as members of the community. Just wear casual clothes, comfortable shoes, and bring along a few friends. All ages are welcome to participate. Stay as long as you can, and leave when you must.

    Meet us on Monday, June 2 at the Davies Center Information Desk at 10:00 a.m. Film director Don Bryne of The Post House and assistant director Scott Morfitt will guide you through the scenes. No special acting skills are necessary – we just need you to be yourself.

    We look forward to seeing you on Monday, June 2, 10:00 a.m. at the Davies Center. Thank you.

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  • Zach Halmstad featured in Forbes Insight Profile Series

    May 19, 2014

    JAMF Software Founder talks about Confluence Project

    In the recent Forbes “Insights Profiles” series, Zach Halmstad, Founder and Co-CEO, JAMF Software mentions the importance of the Confluence Project to the development of “a viable and vibrant downtown.” Following is a selection from the article. The full interview, written by  Bruce H. Rogers, can be read at Forbes.com.

    Zach Halmstad

    Zach Halmstad, Founder and Co-CEO, JAMF Software

    As the company began to catch on and opened its first office in Eau Claire in 2007, Zach came to the realization that the future of JAMF would also require working to create a better future for Eau Claire. “When we looked around town, we decided that we wanted to be in the downtown area, which has certainly seen better days, but we thought that we could play a part in its revitalization.  We now have about 150 people in downtown Eau Claire,” says Halmstad.  His focus on the downtown development of the city got him involved in the Confluence Project that is a combination of state, county and city development funds, along with private investment from corporations and donations from private individuals–all coming together to revitalize the city in a way that none of those groups could do on their own. The project is a combination of a living learning center for the university as well as performing arts center for the university and the community.  JAMF itself committed a half a million dollar pledge to that project. The new JAMF office being built is just a few blocks away from the project.

    “We think that the Confluence Project is partly about supporting the arts and partly prompting economic development in our community, specifically our downtown area.  The facility we are building will hold up to 300 employees, as we continue to grow in downtown Eau Claire.  Beyond that, to prove out the economic development model, I’m also involved in a group that has purchased the largest hotel in downtown Eau Claire.  We are doing a complete renovation of that one, and we made a significant investment into another hotel downtown.  Those two projects are bringing 130 new hotel rooms to our downtown area that currently has none. They’ll also include a handful of bars, a restaurant, a coffee shop and a number of other small businesses.  We’re putting all the resources that we have to continue the revitalization of our area,” says Halmstad.

    Creating a viable and vibrant downtown is all part of Zach’s and JAMF’s efforts to attract and retain world-class talent to the area. While the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire attracts a skilled and diverse talent pool, most leave to go to Minneapolis, New York, Colorado and Silicon Valley to pursue their career dreams. “You see it all the time and a lot of that is really cultural.  While I really love the city that I’ve grown up in and have been given so many great opportunities by our community, I think we can be better. This is really about bettering our community. It’s very important for me to have a positive culture for our employees to live and work in. I also think that there’s a critical mass that we need to get to. It’s not just about JAMF, cultural opportunities are for everyone in our community,” concludes Halmstad.

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  • Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce

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    May 13, 2014

    Letter from Bob McCoy

    It’s been over a month now since the decisive pro-Confluence results in the April election. Those strong majorities confirm public support for the Confluence Project’s importance to the future of Eau Claire. They create valuable momentum towards completing the local funding share.

    But the vote was just one step, and there are still several key decisions that need to be made.

    Right now, the next big milestone on which you can have the most impact: Help affirm the state funding that is needed to make up UW-Eau Claire’s portion of the project.

    Here’s what you can do: Contact Governor Scott Walker, Secretary of Administration Mike Huebsch, and your own local legislators to encourage them to support the state’s commitment to the Confluence Project.

    Tips for making an effective contact:

    Type of contact:
    • The most impact would be a letter printed and mailed on your company letterhead.
    • If that isn’t possible, any contact you make will be helpful – a personal letter, e-mail, or phone call.

    What you can say:
    Rather than a “form letter,” a simple, short statement in your own words will be the most effective. It just needs to include three things:

    1. Start by saying you support the Confluence Project and the state funding for UWEC’s share of it.

    2. Give one or two reasons. You don’t have to make every argument, just pick one or two key points that are most relevant to you that address the reasons the state/UWEC should be part of the project. Here are some:

    • It’s a unique collaboration between the University and the Community
    • It saves money on construction and operating costs vs. doing separate venues
    • It avoids unnecessary duplication of facilities
    • It helps spur private development as a public-private partnership
    • The community decisively showed local support in the April 1 election
    • Private donations will make up a significant part of the local share (and if you’ve donated, mention it)
    • Being part of the Confluence will be more cost effective for the University than building on campus

    3. Thank them for their consideration and ask them to publicly support the state commitment.

    Contact information:
    Governor Scott Walker, 115 E Capitol, Madison WI 53702; 608-266-1212; govgeneral@wisconsin.gov
    Mike Huebsch, Secretary of Administration, 101 E Wilson St, Madison WI 53703; 608-266-1741; mike.huebsch@wisconsin.gov
    • Contact your own State Senator and State Representative: If you’re not sure who that is, click here and enter your voting address, then scroll down to “your state elected officials.”

    What else you can do:
    • Ask 3 or 4 friends and colleagues to do the same thing
    • Share your correspondence with us, including replies you receive. (Send to Scott Rogers, our Governmental Affairs Director: rogers@eauclairechamber.org )

    More information:
    • The Chamber’s Fact Sheet: The Confluence Project: What it is and why the Chamber supports it (updated since the election)

    Your letters really will made a difference. Send yours today.

    Sincerely,
    Bob McCoy, President & CEO
    Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce

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  • Your Story to Tell – Benny Haas

    May 13, 2014

    by Scott Morfitt, CftC blogger

    As many of us have heard the Confluence Project will bring a wide variety of national and regional entertainment to our community. For me, this in and of itself is amazing.

    The opportunity to get to see a wide variety of talent which I would normally have to drive to Minneapolis to see will also mean a huge savings in my own travel expenses. For a guy who lives in downtown this is pretty awesome.Also, this means Eau Claire has the potential to be a hub for west central Wisconsin residents. For local business owners the tourism dollars that this will bring is a necessity.


    Photo by MARK GUNDERMAN | CVBR

    To get a first-hand take on what this means I sat down with Benny Haas, owner of Pizza Plus and Benny HaHa, to get his perspective on why this project is vital.

    Scott Morfitt: How do you think the Confluence Project will help downtown Eau Claire?

    Benny Haas: I believe the Confluence Arts Center will help build on the reinvention of downtown. It is one more thing downtown can do to engage and bring a sense of community. People are looking for an experience, so if downtown can offer entertainment, great food and shopping – downtown will only grow.

    We currently see an increase in our business when State Theatre shows are playing. We can only imagine that an increase in capacity, as well as attracting bigger shows, will have a direct increase on our business as well as others.

    Scott Morfitt: Do you think this will create opportunity for businesses outside of downtown Eau Claire?

    Benny Haas: If the new Arts Center is able to bring in bigger shows people will stay overnight in local hotels and perhaps shop and make a mini-vacation out of it. With many of our hotels outside of downtown this will mean more business for the greater Eau Claire area.

    Scott Morfitt: You are part of 40 Under 40, a group of young entrepreneurs who have pledged money to this project once everything is approved. Where can I find out more about this?

    Benny Haas: You don’t have to be under 40 to make a contribution, so anyone can join the group. There is a donate page on the Community for the Confluence web page, which has the 40 Under 40 pledge form. Or you can contact Ben Richgruber at the Eau Claire Regional Arts Council.

    Scott Morfitt: Why do you think support from younger Eau Claire residents is vital to the Confluence Project?

    Benny Haas: I think we need a cohesive group of support from all age groups. But I think it goes farther when the younger generation stands up and states what they want, and are willing to financially get behind it as well – no matter what amount, big or small.

    We want to hear your Story to Tell. Please contact Scott at contact@communityfortheconfluence.org.

    Stay up-to-date on Confluence events and progress on Facebook and Twitter.

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  • Community Questions

    April 29, 2014

    What’s Your Question?

    Recently, we began updating the CommunityfortheConfluence.org web site to better address regional and state questions about the Confluence Project. The “Common Questions” web page is now “Community Questions.” Many community members have engaged in the Confluence Project by attending public discussions, voting, educating others, offering feedback, and most importantly, asking tough questions to ensure that this project is a success.

    On the Community Questions web page you can read through questions submitted online by community members. In addition, the web page has links to Confluence Project related articles and a research white paper from 2009 that came out of the Clear Vision planning process.

    We want to know what questions, comments or ideas you have about the Confluence Project. Please submit your questions to: contact@communityfortheconfluence.org. We will send your questions to the appropriate representatives to get an answer, email you the answer, and post your question/answer on the Community Questions web page.

    Please limit your questions to two sentences. This is an opportunity to learn more about the project, and express your ideas for the project. We hope all community members will continue to participate in the discussion.

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  • New Blog “My Story to Tell”

    It’s Your Story to Tell

    April 25, 2014

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    by Scott Morfitt, CftC Featured Blogger

    In the first “My Story to Tell” blog I talked to you about what an amazing art scene Eau Claire has.  This is because of the the intense focus on collaboration and placemaking which this scene intrinsically brings to the community.

    This collaboration between people is why I think the Confluence Project is an amazing opportunity for Eau Claire.  It has the potential to use this creative synergy to build something that gives the people of this region an amazing space to celebrate the arts.

    With this in mind the next few blog posts I write will feature questions and answers with some of these people and why they believe that the time is now for this amazing asset to the community.

    I will not just be interviewing the people we classically think of as “artists” (though they will be featured too); business leaders, politicians, sound and light professionals, and community leaders will share their views on why this is so great.

    While I have a list of some key players to interview, this project is about bringing many diverse perspectives to the table.  So, if you want to be included please email me at contact@communityfortheconfluence.org.

    This project is about celebrating collaboration and I believe that is why it is important that many voices make “My Story to Tell” a story about how we all worked together to build something special.

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  • My Story to Tell

    March 30, 2014

    In our new blog series “My Story to Tell,” we asked residents to share their stories about living in Eau Claire and participating in the region’s arts community. We want to tell your stories. Please share your personal experiences as a community arts volunteer, independent musician, artist or actor, educator or parent with children engaged in the arts – even as a member of the audience, as an admirer of the arts you have a story to tell. Please write to us at contact@communityfortheconfluence.org. Thank you.

    Eau Claire resident Scott Morfitt begins the series talking about the strong connection between the University and local community arts groups who thrived on working together.

    Collaboration: Eau Claire’s Biggest Asset

    by Scott Morfitt

    I moved here from Minneapolis in 2006.  While I lived there I worked at record stores and coffee shops and was able to be a part of some amazing “scenes”.

    When, I say that word “scene” I mean different groups of other people interested in various genres of music, independent filmmakers, writers and all sorts of other artists and philosophers.  It was simply amazing, but one thing I always noticed is that these various scenes didn’t have much cross over.  That is to say I wouldn’t expect my punk friends to be connected with some of my other artist friends.  It’s not that anyone had any sort of animosity towards one another; there was so many people in these scenes that branching out just wasn’t a necessity.

    That was the single largest difference I noticed when being welcomed into the music and arts community in Eau Claire.  Because of the size and the strong connection between the University and arts here the scene here really was a community who thrived on working together.

    What that has produced is amazing examples of collaboration between people of broad interests.  It makes me feel so consistently blessed to be able to sit down at a table and be with musicians, visual artists, professionals and other community members and talk about ideas for making this community better.

    It’s that spirit of collaboration that I think makes the Confluence Project an amazing potential asset for this community.  The intersection of the arts and University has already created the vibrant arts community we have today.  By getting students deeper ingrained into this community and giving them opportunities to work with industry professionals and equipment will build this community even stronger.

    There are many other valid and interesting reasons for this project, but the center of it is always making this innovative and community-minded arts scene stronger.

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  • Confluence Arts Center Reaches $5 Million in Pledges

    Support Pledges for Confluence Arts Center Total More than $5 Million

    March 27, 2014

    In response to a $250,000 challenge match issued by Charter Bank in mid-February, additional commitments of $425,000 have been pledged over the past six weeks in support of the proposed Confluence Project community arts center in downtown Eau Claire.

    Charter Bank announced Feb. 14 that it would match, up to a total of $250,000, any new pledges of $25,000 or more made by March 31 in support of the Confluence arts center. The following pledges have resulted in a response that far exceeds the challenge amount:

    • $100,000 from Justin Vernon of the award-winning musical group Bon Iver;
    • $100,000 from Northwestern Bank; and
    • $225,000 in personal commitments from several individuals who wish to remain anonymous.

    The recent pledges significantly boosted the amount of committed private support for the arts center, the centerpiece of the Confluence Project, a proposed revitalization of property commonly referred to as the “Haymarket Site” at the confluence of the Chippewa and Eau Claire rivers. The project is a public-private partnership that also seeks to construct a privately developed commercial/retail and apartment complex suitable for university student housing on the site.

    “We’re very pleased to see such positive and generous response to Charter Bank’s matching gift challenge of $250,000,” said Paul Kohler, president of Charter Bank. “The commitments from businesses and individuals demonstrate the broad base of support for the Confluence community arts center and hopefully add important momentum to the philanthropy expectation for the center. When all areas of our community work together on a common goal, we can accomplish tremendous things.”

    Jerry Jacobson, president of Northwestern Bank, said the bank’s board was unanimous in its support of the pledge for the community arts center.

    “We believe this project is great for all of the Chippewa Valley, not just Eau Claire and the university,” Jacobson said. “Everyone in the region will benefit and for many, many years. This is an investment in the future, and that’s what we here at Northwestern Bank are all about. It’s a pleasure to be a part of something so transformational.”

    With these latest commitments, more than $5 million has been pledged toward the Confluence Arts Center as part of the $13 million in philanthropy identified for the $50 million facility.

    For more information about philanthropy efforts in support of the Confluence Project, contact Kimera Way, president of the UW-Eau Claire Foundation, at 715-836-5180 or waykk@uwec.edu, or Ben Richgruber, executive director of the Eau Claire Regional Arts Council, at 715-832-2787 or ben@eauclairearts.com, or visit www.communityfortheconfluence.org/donate.

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  • Do You Have a Question About the Confluence Project?

    You Have Questions – We Have Answers

    Wednesday, March 26, 2014

    Opposition to the Confluence Project continues to state, “there are unanswered questions.” We continue to respond, “please, ask us your questions.” While the opposition is busy making statements, we are working to answers your questions. Following are two questions recently emailed to Community for the Confluence, and answered by Confluence Project developers Dan Clumpner, Principal, Commonweal Development Corp and Dan Market, CEO, Market & Johnson, Inc.:

    Question: “All this material I read only ever talks about “the Developer”.  Who is this character exactly, and what are the projected returns “the Developer” will be expecting?”
    - asked by Ryan O’Connor

    Answer: “The Developer is Haymarket Concepts, LLC which is a special purpose entity created for the development of the Confluence Project. Its members are Blugold Real Estate, a subsidiary of the UW-Eau Claire Foundation, Market & Johnson and Commonweal Development. Haymarket has funded all project expenses to date including site acquisition, various studies, architectural design, legal and financial consultants.  While Haymarket, and only Haymarket, has all the risk associated with funding this work, its only financial expectation is that the entity be reimbursed for its project expenses and a nominal interest charge (3%/yr) for the advanced funds. The reimbursement would occur when the project is complete.

    Blugold Real Estate’s involvement in this project is through the Foundation’s responsibility to provide benefit to the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Given the university’s involvement in this project, Blugold Real Estate’s expectation is a finished project that will meet the university’s needs and to recoup its share of direct expenditures.

    Like any other service provider or sub-contractor, Market & Johnson will be compensated for project management services. Their contract for the arts center will be subject to procurement rules of the State of Wisconsin and subject to audit upon completion. The construction delivery system and the contract form is essentially the same as was used for the Eau Claire County jail project. That project was completed on time and under budget. We seek similar results for this project as our budget will be finite and the schedule crucial.  The contract relationship with M&J on the mixed use building is the same as with the arts center, even though the State is not involved that project.

    As with M&J, Commonweal expects to be compensated for their development services and will also be subject to State procurement rules, oversight and audit. A stakeholder who had a fiduciary responsibility to assure the reasonableness of Commonweal’s compensation sought an independent opinion from a national public accounting firm experienced with development contracts and private/public partnerships.  We were told that that firm confirmed that Commonweal’s compensation is less than what they would expect other developers to charge for similar services.

    The developer’s motivation for this project is doing the right project for the community and for the university. The partners expect to be treated fairly; nothing more.”
    - answered by Dan Clumpner, Principal, Commonweal Development Corp.

    Question: “This looks like the buildings will be right on the river, what are the risks of flooding? I really would like a response before April 1st so I can make an informed decision.”
    - asked by David Leifer

    Answer: “Thank you for contacting us about your question as it relates to the potential flooding at the Confluence site. Hopefully I will be able to clarify for you what will transpire.

    First let me state, where I state “flood plain” below, I am talking about the “100 year flood plain elevation”, which basically means the highest elevation we should expect to see water elevations approximately every 100 years.

    Currently at the Confluence site a majority of the open parking area (the plaza area) is within the flood plan area. However, to give you a reference point, the southeast corner, right at the corner of Eau Claire Street and Graham Ave, this area is out of the flood plain.

    In order to build on these sites we are obligated to first bring the current elevation up out of the flood plain, have FEMA come in and confirm that we have in fact brought the site out of the flood plain, and then we can begin construction on the foundations, lower parking areas and etc.

    I can tell you that the actual floor of the parking garage will be below the flood plain elevation, but the entrance to get in that garage will be above the flood plain. We will be waterproofing the exterior walls of this area, installing drain tile and a pumping system around this foundation for the unlikely event that the water does get that high. This is typically completed on any major structure with parking below the ground elevation, many times simply to keep out ground water. But let me restate, the entrance to any lower parking area will safely be above flood plain elevation. All of the first floor elevations of the balance of the project will be well above the flood plain elevation as well.

    To give you a real life example of what the above all means, the RCU and JAMF buildings sites were once within the flood plain area. Both sites we brought out of the flood plain prior to construction. Although RCU does not have any basement area, the JAMF building does have a partial basement, protected similar to what I described above. As an additional point of interest, all of the apartment buildings in the new Phoenix park area have parking below their structures, but again, the entrance is above the flood plain elevation.”
    - answer by Dan Market, Market & Johnson, Inc.

    We look forward to answering your questions about the Confluence Project.
    Please email your questions to: contact@communityfortheconfluence.org.
    Ask your questions and be an informed voter on April 1st.

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  • Western Wisconsin Building & Construction Trades Council Supports Confluence Center Project

    “WWBCT President Announces Trades Council Will Ask Union Members to Vote in Support of Confluence Project”

    Monday, March 24, 2014

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    On Friday, March 21, in a letter to the Eau Claire City Council, Terry J. Hayden, WWBCT president announced, “that in support of this project, we are contacting all of our union Building Trades members throughout Eau Claire County & City and are asking them to vote on April 1st to support the Eau Claire Confluence Center.”

    Hayden states that the “building of this new Confluence Center is expected to create a significant number of construction jobs in our area, many of which we hope will be filled by the highly skilled union members of the Western Wisconsin Building and Construction Trades.”

    He closes the letter with the statement that, “this Confluence Center Project will not only create the construction jobs we seek, it will play a key role in the redevelopment of downtown Eau Claire and the long term economic growth for our community.”

    The complete WWBCT letter to the Eau Claire City Council is available at WWBCT Letter.

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  • Confluence Facts and Figures

    “Bob McCoy Comments on Unprecedented Opportunity for Collaboration”

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

    This morning Bob McCoy, President & CEO, Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce sent the following  message to Chamber members. He addresses “the unprecedented opportunity to leverage assets from the university, city and county governments, local non-profits and private development” to continue the growth of businesses and job opportunities in downtown Eau Claire.

    “A glance out our windows here at the Chamber is all it takes to be reminded of one of the most compelling benefits of the proposed Confluence Project: Continuation of the job-creating growth that has already begun around Phoenix Park. We see cranes and other construction activity along Riverfront Terrace, including the multi-million dollar JAMF Software building now under construction. You can’t miss the real investments being made in an area that was once a community eyesore.

    Yet it’s more than the sense of community pride. The numbers speak for themselves, with more than $30 million (and growing) in increased tax base values in the Phoenix Park area as a result of previous public-private partnerships and use of Tax Increment Financing.

    Any discussion of the facts surrounding economic development today must recognize the new realities of attracting high-quality talent to live and work in our community. The leaders of JAMF Software tell us that a vibrant downtown is a more important recruiting tool than talking about 401k benefits. Workers today are “now deciding where they want to live before they decide what they want to do,” noted City Council Member Eric Larsen in a recent Volume One column, where he connected these national trends to what’s happening in Eau Claire.

    In the Confluence Project we have the unprecedented opportunity to leverage assets from the university, city and county governments, local non-profits and private development to extend what’s already been happening. The public investments that are the subjects of the referendums on April 1 are critical, but appropriately small shares of the total. The city and county portions of $5 and $3.5 million towards the performing arts center are wise capital investments that make possible a project of over $70 million. Increased tax base, sales tax receipts, room nights in local hotels, tourism, talent recruitment and other spin-off economic growth will provide a return on investment that future generations with thank us for.

    There are more numbers than I can cover in a brief e-mail. If you still have questions, see our one-page summary of the project and its benefits. Sure, it’s a complex project. But the facts and answers are available. Take some time to read the resources we’ve provided…and be sure to cast an informed vote on April 1.”

    - Bob McCoy, President & CEO, Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce

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  • Q&A LIVE Lunch Session

    “The Arts as an Economic Catalyst? Outrageous!”

    Monday, February 24, 2014

    You are invited to attend our first Q&A LIVE Lunch with guest speaker Kevin Miller, executive director of Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts (THELMA) on Thursday, February 27 at 11:30 a.m. in the Volume One Gallery! Q&A LIVE Lunch is a spin-off from our YouTube Q&A Sessions addressing relevant topics on arts and culture as a generator of economic vitality in our community.

    Miller will present his keynote address, “The Arts as an Economic Catalyst? Outrageous!” about arts and culture development in downtown Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Miller provided the vision and leadership for a multimillion dollar expansion transforming THELMA into a major regional arts destination. This dynamic development in downtown Fond du Lac has been a catalyst for new business and recreation opportunities, and provides unparalleled access to arts and entertainment. After the presentation, Miller will answer questions about THELMA, the importance of arts and culture to quality of life, and the economic vitality of Fond du Lac’s revitalized downtown.

    Take Time to Have Lunch with Us
    After Miller’s presentation complimentary food and beverages will be available for guests who RSVP before Noon on Wednesday, February 26 - simply click the RSVP link, and email us the names of people attending the February 27 Q&A LIVE Lunch session – and enjoy a free lunch!

    Space is limited, please RSVP today.

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  • Let Your Voice Be Heard – Join Voices for Growth!

    VFC-LogoWe’re Back!

    Tuesday, February 11, 2014

    Sign up today at the Voices for Growth.
    Help them Get Out the Vote on April 1st.

    Did you miss us? We missed you, but we’ve been busy preparing for the long haul. Our mission to educate and advocate is still on course to provide you with the FACTS not the misleading interpretations of a radical group trying to disrupt local government. We have interviewed city officials, talked to county business leaders, and listen to the dreams of our community’s talented children looking forward to a creative future – in Eau Claire not Minneapolis.

    At a recent Eau Claire City Council meeting people came forward to state they were not given comprehensive, accurate information when asked to sign a referendum petition. UW-Eau Claire students have stated they signed the petition just to get the petitioner to stop bothering them. Basically, the people gathering signatures had no factual understanding of the “referendum for a referendum” and resorted to stating, “it will raise your taxes.” For crying out loud, we’ll tell you one more time petitioners: the City’s investment in the Confluence Project DOES NOT RAISE YOUR TAXES!

    Yet, the radicals continue to propagate myths without telling the whole story, without considering the entire economic impact and public benefit of the Confluence Project. If you simply consider the public benefits of the City’s investment in the North Barstow section of Tax Increment District 8 – Phoenix Park, the Farmer’s Market, and the expansion of housing and commercial businesses – you can see the future benefits of the Confluence Project. The bottom line folks – if you invest in nothing you get…nothing. Which could be what they want. Keep the status quo. Maybe better jobs and economic growth for our community threatens their livelihood and power.

    As a successful local entrepreneur has stated: enough of this crap. It’s time to for us to move forward and do exactly what the petitioners want: Let the People Vote!

    Sign up today at the Voices for Growth. Help them Get Out the Vote on April 1st.

    We’ll be here to tell the truth about tax increment financing, the public benefits of investment in economic growth, and how other communities have turned the revitalization of their downtown into jobs and revenue for an entire region. Check out the sidebar announcement of Kevin Miller’s upcoming presentation at Downtown Eau Claire’s Annual Awards Banquet – this is the future and the time is now for Eau Claire to make history.

    Until our next communication, please take a minute to sign up at Voices for Growth – Let Your Voice Be Heard!

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