Banbury Place is a harmful waste of space

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My work commute feels something like a tour of Eau Claire: I bike through Phoenix Park, downtown past Galloway Grill and then the entire span of the historical Banbury Place — a 1.9 million square foot ex-rubber mill on Wisconsin Street stuck in a half-hearted renovation effort.

Sometime between choking on the building’s exhaust and noticing the feeble-looking Watch Swan statue that has broken at the neck I wonder what about this decaying building Eau Claire residents value as so essentially historical.

There’s no question the building was at one point an economic keystone of present-day Eau Claire, but now it serves little benefit to the average Eau Claire citizen.

Certainly the windows serve as a nice set of targets to rock slinging local kids, but there doesn’t seem to be any sort of intrinsic value for the building, save the restaurant Moneatza’s you’ve never been to or the alcohol awareness class your friend was assigned to take.

The Banbury Place’s website is the first indication of the responsible parties’ attempt at clinging to the unrealistic prospect of preserving the building. The title says everything the building is failing to be: “A Historic Restoration.”

Vague wording such as the description of on-site apartment housing, “It offers a wide range of on-site amenities creating a vibrant activity center,” offers me nothing.

Perfect. We’ve utilized fractions of this building for studio apartments and storage units, while the vast majority remains a rat-infested odyssey.

Consider the input costs of the building when matched up against these supposed business prospects and historic allure — Banbury Place is the fifteenth highest polluter of Eau Claire.

In a city about the same square mileage of Paris, a building sitting riverside emitting 9,758.41 parts per million in pollutants per year sounds pretty extreme.

Because the building is so large and overlooked, consider how frighteningly lawless Banbury Place has the potential to be. Although I’m personally glad the homeless have found a way to make use of the underground tunnel system to shelter from weather, I can think of a half dozen crimes off the top of my head that could occur in such a huge amount of unregulated space.

Realistically, I would be willing to bet the building’s historical attraction comes more from ghost stories and tragedies such as the maintenance worker who electrocuted himself in Building 13 than the actual history of rubber production.

I don’t have any concrete suggestions for what direction the city should take with Banbury Place, but I do know that on my way to work I’d rather see the area utilized as green space than the building in its current state.

Of course, in such an industrial setting, that doesn’t sound feasible. But the building should be reimagined and downsized with efficiency in mind — in terms of both economics and environmental safety.

Eau Claire is brimming with history, and the Banbury Building is no exception — but in my eyes holding on to nearly two million square feet of trash borders on greed.