On Nov. 5, the Eau Claire Landmarks Commission and Plan Commission both held meetings about The Confluence. The Landmarks Commission passed a resolution forwarding a research report regarding buildings in the Confluence Commercial Historic District that could be incorporated into the overall Confluence project. The Landmarks Commission noted in its report that structural deficiencies in the existing buildings could result in necessary repairs that would render them too expensive to renovate and requested that if the buildings are removed, the developers incorporate architectural style and details reflecting the character of the existing buildings as well as downtown overall.
That same evening, the Plan Commission, following a public hearing, voted to approve the necessary rezoning of the properties in the General Development Plan and the General Development Plan itself, with a number of conditions that must be met before final plans are presented. The General Development Plan approved by the Plan Commission includes the buildings in the Confluence Commercal Historic District along Barstow and Eau Claire streets. Removal of the buildings must be done in accordance with all state and federal statutes and policies and the State Historical Society will be involved in guiding those processes.
Tonight, Monday, Nov. 12, the Eau Claire City Council will hold a public hearing on the Plan Commission recommendations.
As has been previously noted, both the Eau Claire City Council and UW System Board of Regents have unanimously passed resolutions supporting the project, with a number of conditions and guiding principles. The regents' guiding principles include, among others, that:
- the entity or entities that will own and operate the private components of the project’s arts facilities must provide satisfactory proof of an independent guarantor or surety of the financial and operational obligations of the entity or entities; and
- the project’s operating agreement must ensure that neither UW-Eau Claire nor the Board of Regents will be liable for more than their prorated share of operational costs.
You may have read or seen news reports recently indicating that The Confluence Project has, somehow, been slowed. As you can tell from all of the activity described here, that clearly is not the case. David Miller, associate vice president for capital planning and budget at UW System, responding to a question about when the project will again be presented to regents, was quoted in one article as saying, "It's still moving forward, it's still on track, we will do all our homework and present it in due time."
That describes very well where we are in the process. The university and other partners are doing all of the due diligence necessary before commitments to fund such a major project are made. These are important, prudent steps and we are committed to ensuring that we provide all of our other potential partners (city, county, regents, state) with the best information available so they can make their own independent judgments about the viability of the project.
Finally, private fundraising efforts continue — including one involving UW-Eau Claire alumnus Justin Vernon. Vernon, Bon Iver frontman, and an Eau Claire guitar maker created a unique guitar that was auctioned off with proceeds going to the proposed community arts center at The Confluence.
The guitar, named "The 1608," is made from whiskey barrels. One of just four handcrafted by Eau Claire luthier Gordy Bischoff, it was auctioned on eBay for $9,400.
Vernon, a 2004 religious studies graduate of UW-Eau Claire, proposed the idea for the guitar to Bischoff, who has crafted other guitars for Vernon. Vernon has a marketing contract with Bushmills Irish Whiskey, the company that provided the whiskey barrels for the project. We’re pleased and proud Justin Vernon is taking such an active role in fundraising and consulting for The Confluence Project.