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Eau Claire (WQOW) - An Eau Claire city council member says the city is proceeding cautiously with the Confluence Project.
WQOW News 18 has been told developers are asking for about $10 million from the city for the project. Thursday, a council member told WQOW News 18 they have a lot of questions about the project, which calls for a new community arts center along with retail and student housing.
One part of the discussion could be about the historic buildings downtown, property that may be needed for the project.
WQOW News 18 spoke with the president of the Eau Claire Historic Preservation Foundation on Thursday. That group has formed a new committee in hopes of restoring the buildings on South Barstow and making them a part of the Confluence Project. Janice Wnukowski, the President of the Eau Claire Historic Preservation Foundation, along with other community members, is taking a stand for the city's history.
Wnukowski says, "Although these buildings are old, they've been here for years and they could continue to be here for years. We're hoping to educate people on the historic significance of these buildings and the potential for them to be adaptively reused and included in the project, not removed entirely."
While nothing has been made official, there is a potential that the South Barstow buildings will be torn down to make room for new buildings in the Confluence Project. In a rezoning request from the developers, they say, "Saving the buildings would be an exercise in futility."
"Right now, we're extremely concerned with the ones on S. Barstow St., that they remain here. We're understanding we can't save everything but we want to save as much as we can," says Wnukowski
WQOW News 18 wanted to know where you draw the line between something that is of historic significance or just old.
Wnukowski says, "To us, anything with a historic interest is worth saving. Some of the buildings, such as the farmers store building has been redone so many times that potentially there past history is lost. But, like the Kline building, which is on the National Register, if you look in there, you'll see it still has tin ceilings. It still has the things that were there when it was originally built."
And it's not just the buildings; a few businesses still remain on the block.
"Scandinavian Imports has been downtown for 52 years on this location, since the early 1970s. That's not a fly by night business. It's a specialty store, which draws not only from Eau Claire, the surrounding towns, but the entire United States, and Scandinavia," says Scandinavian Imports Owner, Dawn Bergstrom.
Another point in the developer's rezoning request was that most of the buildings "have "collapsing floor slabs and were built on poor soils."
"When I had a professional inspection of the building, the findings were that this building was built on shale, certainly not sawdust and sand," says, Bergstrom.
Wnukowski says, "We'll be in it to the end, we're going to be fighting for these buildings until there's no fight left."
On Monday the project will make its first public appearance in front of the city council. Last week the city council met in a closed session with the developers of the project.
If you're wondering what the city may help finance, it would be things like a parking facility, a bridge and improvements to the trails.
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