The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Eau Claire seeks downtown renovations

The student differential tuition fee will increase for the first time next year as Student Senate unanimously voted Monday to raise the $50 semester charge by $15 over the next two years.

Students and citizens of Eau Claire may have more reason to explore the down- town area in the future — at least that’s the goal of a redevelopment project just getting underway.

At a public meeting held Tuesday evening, Ayres Associates, a firm hired by the city of Eau Claire, outlined a variety of options for an improved downtown area hinging on Barstow Street. The options included expanding Barstow and Graham St. to two-way roads, adding river access with a walking or biking path along the Chippewa River and redeveloping the Haymarket parking lot — which sits at the intersection of the Chippewa and Eau Claire Rivers — into a festival or pedestrian area.

The main goal of Tuesday’s meeting, though, was to elicit feedback from the community, both at the meeting and on the firm’s website, said Ken Voigt of Ayres Associates.

Nick Meyer, owner and publisher of Volume One magazine and member of the Downtown Eau Claire Board of Directors, said it’s especially important for students and young people to give their feedback.

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“This is an opportunity that I think more than ever city leaders are willing to hear from the youth of this community because they’re building a project that’s meant to serve people for the next 40 years,” Meyer said.

Voigt began the informational meeting by presenting the implications of changing Barstow St. and Gra- ham St. into two-way roads by showing projected traffic numbers, accident numbers and simulations of major intersections downtown.

Voigt said two-way streets could slow traffic and increase business exposure, but also would cause problems with delivery truck loading and pedestrian crossing.

The cost of a one-way versus a two-way road would remain roughly the same, Voigt said, because either way the city would be rebuilding the roadways.

Garrett Perry, an architect from Design Studio ETC, then laid out three potential plans for a river walk and redevelopment of the Haymarket parking lot along the Chippewa and Eau Claire Rivers.

The first — dubbed the ‘Radial Plan’ — did not change the current cityscape much, but simply added a path along the river and gathering places — which Perry referred to as ‘nodes’ — along some of the major streets, including both Main and Eau Claire St.

The ‘Promenade Plan’ showed some minor development along the river and a more focused path that led up Eau Claire St. and to the “S” Bridge at Boyd Park.

The final plan, called the ‘Festival Plan,’ called for large redevelopment in the Haymarket parking lot area and the creation of a festival area that could accommodate large groups of people for citywide events.

Referencing the three plans, Meyer said he hoped the future development would focus on “everyday Eau Claire” instead of simply special events, something he believes the city already excels at.

“Where Eau Claire is getting really poor marks right now, at least in my opinion, is in that everyday look of what this place looks like and how it feels at two o’clock on a random Tuesday,” Meyer said.

Eric Anderson, an Eau Claire resident who attended Tuesday’s meeting, said he would like to see activities such as biking and jogging set as a priority for the downtown redevelopment.

“(Recreational activities) are the things that help stimulate the downtown,” Anderson said. “They are what make (downtown) vibrant.”

Anderson also said he was impressed with Ayres Associates and the time and effort they put into the presentation.

The downtown redevelopment project is the second major redevelopment the city of Eau Claire has hired Ayres Associates for. The first is a redevelopment of Hastings Way, which, after multiple public meetings, was approved by the Eau Claire City Council last week. Construction on Hastings is slated to begin this spring.

As for downtown, the planning is still in very preliminary steps with no real timeline yet.

View the project ideas and give your own feedback at www.ayresassociates. com/ecdowntown.

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