Children’s center plans unveiled

Story by Brian Miller


After several months of planning, designs for the new Children’s Center on campus have been released, showing their impact on the available parking in the Haas lot.

According to a Tuesday presentation from members of the Children’s Center Steering Committee and architects from Ayres Associates, the Haas parking lot should be another construction site on campus by spring 2011.

The Hibbard parking lot and the open area next to it, as well as the new land attained next to the Visitor’s Center, were both considered as potential locations for the project. Ultimately, the southwest corner of the Haas parking lot was chosen.

“It had the room that was required, it also had some good proximity to the Autism clinic that’s available in the HSS building,” said Project Manager Raivo Balciunas during the presentation.

Designs presented Wednesday showed an approximately 15,000 square foot one-story building with 11 classrooms – 12 if funding permits.

“Everyone at the Children’s Center, especially the teachers, are really, really excited about the new building and especially about it’s location by the river,” said senior Kim Vaughter, painting major and employee at the Children’s Center for the past three years.

In addition to the actual building, there will be multiple outdoor play areas and a drop-off parking lot for the UW-Eau Claire students who have children enrolled in the childcare. The need for unobtrusive drop-off parking was a serious consideration in choosing this location.

“We didn’t want to further exacerbate the congestion problems on Park (Avenue) or Roosevelt as they already exist, and adding the center there would do that,” said Jodi Thesing-Ritter, UW-Eau Claire chair of the Children’s Center Steering Committee.

When finished the total cost is expected to be around $3.8 million dollars, some of which will come from student segregated fees. This will include the new center and improvements to the Haas lot, a separate project that had been in planning before this project and location were set.

“Prior to this project becoming online there was a planned project which involved the resurfacing and making various improvements to the Haas parking lot and the circular drop-off area to increase some parking,” Balciunas said.

The Haas parking lot will be affected during construction, most drastically during the summer of 2011 when no spaces will be available. When completed, only one stall will be lost, but the improved lot will have increased parking for mopeds and motorcycles.

Balciunas said that, starting in May, the number of available parking spots will go down from 269 to 106. Over the summer alternate parking arrangements will need to be made for people using the Human Sciences and Services building which will remain open. The area should be ready for regular use by the time classes start next fall.

“I think that folks in Haas and HSS are concerned about how the construction will impact classes,” Thesing-Ritter said. “We are hopeful that the bulk of the site construction will happen in the summer months where it will have the least academic disruption.”

Vaughter addressed the benefits of an additional building in the Water Street area of campus.

“As a student that spends most of her time on (the north) side of the bridge, I think it’s exciting that we’re going to have another building there because sometimes we do get the feeling from Haas that it’s ‘the other side.'”