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UW-Eau Claire chancellor expresses appreciation for City Council Confluence Project support

October 22, 2013

EAU CLAIRE — University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt expressed his appreciation Oct. 22 for the decision by the Eau Claire City Council to pledge $5 million in city funds toward development of the Confluence Project community arts center.

"This is an important step by a key partner in the Confluence Project," Schmidt said. "This pledge represents a commitment by the city of Eau Claire’s elected leadership to develop a community arts center that will serve the needs of the community, region and university. The university is grateful for the council’s action."

By an 8-3 vote, the City Council approved Oct. 22 a resolution to pledge city funds and expressed its desire to enter into a development agreement for the project, which also includes a privately developed mixed-use building containing retail and commercial space, and apartment-style student housing.

The UW-Eau Claire facilities master plan identifies new and improved arts facilities for UW-Eau Claire as the highest academic facilities priority for the campus. The Confluence Project community arts center currently is included in the UW System 2013-19 Agency Physical Development Plan for funding in 2015-17.

Schmidt said the timing of the City Council vote is important because UW-Eau Claire must submit its 2015-17 capital funding requests to the UW System early next month.

"The planning timeline for 2015-17 major project proposals is well underway," Schmidt said. "As the university has consistently stated since the Confluence Project was announced in May 2012, we must make improvements to our fine and performing arts facilities in the 2015-17 biennium. Kjer Theatre and other arts facilities on campus are either obsolete or inadequate and no longer serve the educational or performance needs of our students, faculty and staff. The status quo is not acceptable.
 
"UW-Eau Claire is a staunch supporter of the Confluence Project. I firmly believe it provides the best solution to meeting community and university arts facilities needs because all partners will realize much more benefit through this unique public-private-philanthropic undertaking than any of us could on our own. I look forward to continuing the close collaboration with all of our partners to make this visionary project a reality."

The nearly $79 million Confluence Project is planned on property commonly referred to as the "Haymarket Site" at the confluence of the Chippewa and Eau Claire rivers in downtown Eau Claire. The site along Eau Claire Street and Graham Avenue consists of the Farmers Store and Market Square buildings that border the downtown Haymarket parking lot.

The project includes a community arts center and a mixed-use development consisting of retail/commercial space, parking and apartment-style university student housing.

As envisioned, the community arts center of approximately 150,000 square feet would serve the Eau Claire Regional Arts Council (ECRAC), community performing and fine arts organizations, and UW-Eau Claire. Preliminary plans for the community arts center include:

Three distinct performance spaces: a 1,200-1,500-seat theater to replace downtown Eau Claire's obsolete State Theatre; a 450-seat theatre to replace UW-Eau Claire’s aging Kjer Theatre; and a 250-seat black box-style venue.

  • Scene and costume shops.
  • Dressing rooms and other “back of house” operations.
  • Fine arts studios, gallery space and dance studio space.
  • Classrooms and rehearsal rooms.
  • Offices for ECRAC, community arts organizations, and select university faculty and staff in the fine and performing arts.

The current estimated cost of the community arts center is $50 million. UW-Eau Claire would seek $25 million from the UW System Board of Regents to pay for its portion of the facility housing academic program space in the arts center. As envisioned, the other $25 million for the arts center would come from a combination of city, county and philanthropic funds, and new market tax credits.

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