Symbolic Ground-Breaking for Downtown Eau Claire’s Biggest Project Ever

Nov 12, 2014

Reprinted by permission from Volume One:

Original Article

by Tom Giffey photo by Community for the Confluence

mine

After two and a half years of planning, public debate, political campaigning, demolition, and preparation, ground was broken – at least symbolically – on Tuesday for the first phase of the Confluence Project in downtown Eau Claire.

“Since May of 2012, we have been slogging through this project, and today is a time to celebrate,” City Council President Kerry Kincaid told a crowd of several hundred people crammed into the lobby of the State Theatre. A few minutes later, Kincaid and a dozen other business, university, and community leaders donned hard hats and grabbed shovels to pose for photos in front of a massive image of the soon-to-be-built Haymarket Landing.

The $25 million project, the most expensive in downtown Eau Claire’s history, will include a combination of retail and commercial space on the first floor with five stories of apartments above. It will be built in the recently demolished block of South Barstow Street overlooking the confluence of the Eau Claire and Chippewa rivers. The privately built Haymarket Landing is intended as a companion to a $50 million Confluence performing arts center slated to be built next door. (The performing arts center is a joint project of UW-Eau Claire and the Eau Claire Regional Arts Council.)

A fresh blanket of snow prevented a literal groundbreaking, so as they have at many points in the arduous process of bringing the Confluence Project into reality, supporters had to turn to alternate plans, bringing the ceremony indoors. Kimera Way, president of the UW-Eau Claire Foundation, one of the project’s partners, noted that the snowfall was symbolic of the many twists and turns the project has taken.

Haymarket Landing is being built by Haymarket Concepts, a partnership composed of Commonweal Development, Market & Johnson, and Blugold Real Estate, a UWEC Foundation subsidiary. While the 119 apartments at Haymarket Landing will be marketed toward college students, as well as others who might want to live downtown, the facility will be privately owned and operated. The apartments will help alleviated the shortage of on-campus housing, said UWEC Chancellor James Schmidt. “We think this location is going to be perfect,” he added.

Paul Kohler, chairman of the board of the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce, told the audience that projects like this one – which involve collaboration among businesses, the university, and local government – are the face of future community development. “This is a game-changer, not just for downtown, but for the whole Chippewa Valley,” he said.

In a press release, Dan Clumpner of Commonweal Development noted that property tax revenue generated by Haymarket Landing will help fund the performing arts center and an adjacent public plaza. “This groundbreaking marks the beginning of a win-win-win for the overall Confluence Project and a continued downtown Eau Claire comeback,” he said.