A rollercoaster of progress

Confluence took big steps forward this summer


Photo by Anna Mateffy

Story by Kristina Bornholtz, News Editor

This spring many UW-Eau Claire students worked hard to support the Confluence Project, encouraging fellow community members to use their voice and rock the vote. And despite annual migration of students going home for the summer, the Project kept going, making gains in funding, construction and support.

“It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster ride, there’s been a lot of ups and downs,” UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James C. Schmidt said. “In some ways we’re still building tracks while the ride is going. We’re still figuring out where that soft landing is going to be.”

This means in no way will UW-Eau Claire students be funding either of the Confluence buildings. If they so choose, they can participate in the Community for the Confluence’s text-to-donate program, which will contribute to the remaining $16.5 million needed for the performing arts center.


The landscape downtown has undergone a drastic change over the summer, with the buildings on the corner of Barstow Street and Eau Claire Street torn down starting in July. The project is nearing completion to make room for the mixed-use space.

“It was actually an interesting and slow process because they were careful to do what they could to recycle the materials,” Mitchell said.

The space will leave room for the 34,000 square feet of commercial space on the first floor, plus the five floors above intended for student housing. Though it will primarily focus on students, Schmidt said he would not call them dorms because UW-Eau Claire will not own them.

“The mixed-use building is not a university building,” Schmidt said.

Commonweal Development Corp. is designing the mixed-use building, which hopes to draw a variety of restaurants, stores and offices. On Aug. 25, the Waterways and Parks Commission postponed approval of the plan, deciding it had specific decisions to make regarding the building’s relationship to the river and the trail.

However, Mitchell is not concerned this will slow down progress.

“The Plan commission meeting on the 15th is key because that is the group that approves the site plan,” Mitchell said. “I think the Plan Commission can go ahead and do its work even without the information from the Waterways Commission.”

With eyes set on Sept. 15, the community waits for the fate of the mixed-use building. If the state approves the plan, Schmidt said construction could start as early as this fall, with the goal to have the building open in June 2016.


This fall, Wisconsin will be holding elections for governor, and the way the vote goes will certainly alter the path of the Confluence Project in some way.

However, both front-running candidates, Gov. Scott Walker and Mary Burke, voiced their support of the project over the summer.

“I’m here today to tell you I support going forward with this project,” Walker said at a luncheon, according to online coverage by WAYY-AM of the event, hosted by the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce.

His opponent, democratic candidate Burke, has also promised to support the project, saying she would provide up to $25 million in support of the community arts center.

WPR reported on its website that Burke voiced her opinion prior to Walker.

“I was in Eau Claire much earlier than June and voiced support for the project then,” said Burke,  “So, I have been supportive from the start and would definitely support a non-state grant for it.”

If either Walker or Burke win the election, there will be support for the Confluence Project coming from the capitol.

“The good news is that the project is still alive and that we are working toward the goal,” Schmidt said.