July 09--Construction on the $25 million mixed-use building on Barstow Street will proceed with or without a community performing arts center, a developer involved in the Confluence Project said Tuesday.
That said, "we're pretty convinced there is going to be some kind of performance venue on that site," said Dan Clumpner, principal with Commonweal Development of Eau Claire, which makes up a third of Haymarket Concepts. "There is just too much of a need and too compelling an argument for something in the performing arts arena."
Market & Johnson, an Eau Claire-based general contracting firm, and Blugold Real Estate, a subsidiary of the UW-Eau Claire Foundation, make up the other two-thirds of the partnership behind the public-private project, which includes the performing arts center and mixed-use building.
Before the arts center can proceed, a number of hurdles need to be cleared, mainly funding. A key piece of the arts center's $51.2 million estimated cost is $25 million UW-Eau Claire is seeking in state funding through the UW System.
The Board of Regents will decide next month whether to include that request in its proposed 2015-17 budget. The Legislature will draft the biennial budget early next year and send it to the governor. Gov. Scott Walker has pledged his support for the Confluence Project, but he faces re-election in November. His likely opponent, Democrat Mary Burke, also has expressed her support for the project. The new budget is scheduled to take effect next July 1 after the governor signs it.
Effort reaches $5M
The fundraising effort for the performing arts center is at about $5 million, said Kimera Way, executive director of the UW-Eau Claire Foundation. That's still millions of dollars short of the local philanthropy needed to reach the fundraising goal.
In an April referendum, voters approved the Eau Claire County Board's $3.5 million pledge toward the arts center. Eau Claire city government also 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 to cover possible operating deficits.
Clumpner hasn't thought about the possibility of the arts center not going forward.
"That's what the community needs, that's what the university needs, and that's what we intend, one way or another, to deliver," he said.
Hazard abatement began this week, and Clumpner and Matt Faulkner, executive vice president of Market & Johnson, estimated it will take at least a week to remove asbestos and any other hazards from the Farmers Store, Market Square Building and structures on the west side of South Barstow Street from the Eau Claire River to Eau Claire Street.
If everything goes as planned, the physical removal of those buildings could begin early next week, Faulkner said. Demolition could take five to six weeks to complete.
The mixed-use building site will be ready for the construction of a combination of private apartment-style housing and commercial space early this fall, Clumpner said. Once all the necessary permits and agreements are obtained, construction on the site can begin.
The building will include about 150,000 square feet of residential space, 34,000 square feet of retail space and 57,000 square feet for lower-level parking, Clumpner said.
In the residential space, developers are expecting about 119 apartments that will include up to 375 beds, Faulkner said.
UW-EC need cited
Mike Rindo, UW-Eau Claire's assistant chancellor for facilities and university relations, is excited to see the Confluence Project continue to move forward, although he knows there still is a long way to go before the performing arts center gets a green light.
"The university has a very demonstrated need for quality student housing whether it's on campus or off campus," he said, noting a housing demands study that was part of university's master plan indicates there is a real interest among juniors and seniors in apartment-style housing off campus.
"If the Confluence Project is able to satisfy some of that need, that would be a benefit to our students most certainly," he said.
"The appeal of downtown housing continues to grow," Clumpner said.
O'Brien can be reached at 715-830-5838, 800-236-7077 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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