Downtown Eau Claire Featured in the Chippewa Valley Business Report: "There?s a flock of phoenixes rising!"


Posted: November 20, 2015

Cranes dominate the skyline as the entire downtown epitomizes the eponymous Phoenix of its riverside park, rising high again.

Bob McCoy, CEO/president of the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce says the two catalysts in rejuvenation were Royal Credit Union building its corporate headquarters downtown and the city developing the adjacent Phoenix Park. “Just after that, the Chamber built their new building,” McCoy said. “Following that, there was a concerted effort to revitalize downtown, and North Barstow is a result of what you see today. Now the forces are working on the south Barstow area and trying to develop that as well.”

“The Confluence Project, the Lismore Hotel, the refurbishing of the Green Tree Hotel and additional housing projects continue the major transformation of downtown into the future. The city is also working on a new transit center which will enhance the downtown,” McCoy said.

After Uniroyal Tire closed Jack Kaiser and Bill and Patti Cigan purchased the building and it is now a very successful large incubator known as Banbury Place.

Zach Halmstad of JAMF Software, who located downtown and grew his company to 200 employees. He built a $10 million office building right next to RCU. He also bought the old Ramada Hotel and is redeveloping that into the Lismore Hotel.

Nick Meyer, the editor, owner, and publisher of Volume One magazine, put a high shine on his headquarters and store. The building dates back to the early 1880s. “From my downtown office, I can see four large-scale construction projects happening right now — that’s never happened before," Meyer said.

The business owners are playing a key part in the redevelopment. Tax money from the business improvement districts is being used to improve areas, with a board of directors elected by the property owners deciding how the money is spent.

"The North Barstow bid put in $110,000 to help on the fourth floor of the new parking garage. Others put in flowers, watering systems for shrubs, brick pavers, fancier light poles and trash receptacles, things that they think are needed in their area,” Mike Schatz, the city’s economic development director, said. “Downtown EC, Inc. gives council recommendation on things like parking, cleanliness, and putting on special events to bring people downtown to put them in front of businesses, suggesting the kind of amenities you need to attract talented people to our downtown.”

UW-Eau Claire has also partnered with private developers to expand into the confluence area of downtown, Schatz pointed out. The Haymarket Landing building will offer student housing atop an initial floor of commercial enterprises and is scheduled to open in the summer of 2016. The university is also partnering with other arts organizations for a new performing arts center.

“There are cranes everywhere this year and many more projects in the pipeline,” Schatz said. “The momentum is there and is going to continue. All those years of hard work and now it’s just rolling.”

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