July 08--Confluence Project backers stated they will begin pouring foundations for a $25 million privately financed mixed-use building in September, even as public funding for the related performing arts center still will be pending.
Haymarket Concepts, the partnership behind the proposed public-private project, announced in a Monday news release that demolition of old vacant buildings will begin this week at the Confluence site in downtown Eau Claire.
"They're a public nuisance. They're a hazard to the community right now," Matt Faulkner, executive vice president of Market & Johnson, the Eau Claire construction firm that makes up one-third of Haymarket Concepts, said about the vacant buildings.
Eau Claire-based Commonweal Development and Blugold Reality -- a division of the UW-Eau Claire Foundation -- are the other two parties that comprise the partnership, which is financing the demolition.
Alliance Steel Construction of Superior will demolish the buildings along the west side of the first block of South Barstow Street and the north side of the 200 block of Eau Claire Street. Demolition, which will include salvaging and recycling parts of the old buildings, is expected to last five to six weeks, according to the release.
The Confluence Project includes a $51.2 million community performing arts center and the $25 million mixed-use building with private apartment-style student housing and commercial space for shops or restaurants.
Construction of the mixed-use building is scheduled to begin in fall, even as officials continue to pursue funding from private donors, the state and the city for the arts center portion of the project.
The schedule calls for pouring the mixed-use building's foundation in September, Faulkner said, and construction would finish in June 2016.
A key piece of the arts center's $51.2 million estimated cost is $25 million Haymarket is seeking in state funding through the UW System. The Board of Regents will decide next month if that will be included in its 2015-17 state budget request. The Legislature will draft the biennial budget early next year, and the governor would need to sign it by the end of June 2015.
The fundraising effort for the performing arts center is at about at $5 million, said Kimera Way, executive director of the UW-Eau Claire Foundation.
Voters approved the Eau Claire County Board's $3.5 million pledge toward the arts center through an April referendum. The Eau Claire city government has pledged $5 million toward the arts center, but it requires that the project first gets its $25 million in state funding and creates a $2.5 million endowment fund for operations costs.
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