The Confluence Project Flows Forward


Posted: October 29, 2013

With some new momentum behind it, the group that's leading the way for the Confluence Project will be working to satisfy the conditions set forth in the Eau Claire City Council resolution that pledges $5 million to the community arts center portion of the project. 

 "This is an important step by a key partner in the Confluence Project.  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," said UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt.

UW-Eau Claire, Haymarket Concepts, and the Eau Claire Regional Arts Center, will continue discussion with Eau Claire County leaders, the UW-System, state legislators, and the Department of Administration, according to Mike Rindo, UWEC Assistant Chancellor for Facilities and University Relations.  The group is also seeking $5 million from Eau Claire County and $25 million in state funding.  The rest of the arts center's construction costs will be from donations and tax credits.  Rindo said there will be ongoing efforts for fundraising to meet both the construction costs and the $2.5 million endowment for operational purposes laid out in the council resolution.

Meanwhile, Rindo said, the university must also submit its 2015-2017 capital budget priorities to the UW-System.  Early this month, the Confluence Project will be evaluated by the UW Board of Regents.

I firmly believe (the Confluence Project) 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," said Schmidt.

City Council President Kerry Kincaid said the City Council will carefully monitor the list of conditions to make sure they are met, but said the City already has experience with cooperative arrangements like the City/County Health Department, shared law enforcement space at the County Government Center, regional EMS, and shared athletic venues with UWEC at Hobbs Ice Center and Carson Park. 

"I continue to be proud that Eau Claire has the opportunity to explore this shared project.  We are capable and ready to build another cooperative partnership for the arts, especially one that revitalizes our city center," Kincaid said.

At the same time, efforts to get a binding referendum on the April ballot are moving forward.  Referendum effort organizer Mike Bollinger said the Confluence Referendum Committee is working on the question to pose to voters.  The citizens group needs 3,619 signatures before January 15.  However, City Attorney Steve Nick said the referendum won't necessarily overrule the Council's financial commitment to the project.

Along with the arts center, the Confluence Project also includes a $26 million privately-financed mixed-use building that would have student housing, commercial space for shops and restaurants, and underground parking.

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