Historical building another hurdle to clear for Confluence Proje - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Historical building another hurdle to clear for Confluence Project


Eau Claire (WQOW)- For downtown development, there are small, but important steps that must be taken. And this week, you can add another brick in the wall. 

WQOW has been following the Confluence Project every step of the way.

There's a public hearing Monday night about the project; with a mix of student housing, an arts center and retail space in downtown Eau Claire.

"The buildings are not in great shape in terms of their foundations," notes Eau Claire City Council Member Dave Duax.

There's been debate about what to do with buildings located on the first block of South Barstow Street; buildings that have been a part of Eau Claire for decades, but now stand in the way of a new downtown.

"None of the buildings are local landmarks," explains Commonweal Development President Stuart Schaefer.

Confluence Project developers hired consultants to go door-to-door. Those consultants found weak foundations and determined saving them to be too expensive and too difficult.

"It's not surprising because they are such old buildings.  In those days, they didn't have concrete.  They were made out of sandstone blocks and sandstone has deteriorated over the last 100 and some years," remembers Duax.

"One of the buildings, 6 South Barstow, which was the Kline Department Store from 1925 to about 1927, was put on the National Register of Historic Places by the building's owner," Schaefer explains.

Because of that listing and the state dollars that could fund the project, the law suggests there could be a negotiation; a negotiation between the state agency and the historical society about the property.

"We need to work with the university system and they would prepare a report regarding the buildings that are on the Register of National Historic Places," Schaefer notes.

The two were in contact last week.

"What we don't have is any decision yet from the Wisconsin Historical Society as to the consequences of using federal or state money on those projects," Duax says.

The Eau Claire City Council's input will also be very important.  It will have the final say on a number of things; including whether to provide annual funding for operational costs.

"We've not made any decisions at all.  That will come at a later date," Duax explains.

The owner of the South Barstow Street buildings has publicly said that even if the buildings were not included in the project, he would not spend the money to restore them. There is a public hearing on rezoning and on the general development plan.  That hearing will begin at 7 p.m. Monday night at City Hall.  The council could take a vote Tuesday night.

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