Confluence Project - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Confluence Project: Organizers say there's nothing "simple or easy" about project


Eau Claire (WQOW) - An $85 million project continues to move forward, but the pace has been slowed. The Confluence Project was announced in May and already has been the focus of several meetings.

The project is a mix of student housing, an arts center and retail space in downtown Eau Claire. Organizers were hoping to go before the UW Board of Regents next month, to ask for funding.  Earlier this week, WQOW News 18 learned that wasn't going to happen, a UW System official said  the project wasn't ready to go before the board.

Right now developers are in the process of working with a company called VenuWorks. Their job is to look at the original business plan and make any suggestions that will help to improve the operating budget.   One thing VenuWorks is doing is a public survey.  It's also having discussions with those who would use the proposed fine arts building. The results from that haven't been turned in yet. 

"It is big, it is complicated," says Mike Rindo, with UW-Eau Claire.

For some, putting together a new puzzle means starting at the edges. In the case of the Confluence Project pieces, that means asking the right questions. 

Rindo says, "Say there's a shortfall one year, well who will pick up that shortfall?"

The board of regents asked that the project find a third party that would step in if payments cannot be made.

"Is it difficult to find? I don't think that there's anything that is simple or easy about this project," says, Rindo.

The hope was, in December, to ask the board to set aside $55 million in the next capital budget.  That will most likely still happen, but at a later date.

Rindo says, "In conversations with UW-System, we've been assured that there is ample time to be able to continue to move the project forward so that there is funding consideration for it, on the timeline that we have projected."

Before state funding can be approved, all parties involved have to be sure the operating budget is realistic. 

"They don't want to have a facility that is constructed and then is running a deficit," explains Rindo.

Right now, developers aren't sure when they will go before the UW Board of Regents. The next time the board of regents will meet after the December date, is February. 

Developers also say they want to make sure that everyone is communicating well, especially because there are so many partners involved.

It's a public-private partnership, with the university being one of the key players.  Earlier this week, the Eau Claire Plan Commission gave its support for the overall development plan and for rezoning. The city council will also take that up on Monday.



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