Eau Claire City Council helping owners of downtown properties - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Eau Claire City Council helping owners of vacant downtown properties

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Eau Claire (WQOW) - Take a walk through downtown Eau Claire, and you'll probably notice a few vacant buildings. According to the city, Eau Claire hasn't had this many vacant properties in at least a decade. To help owners of the buildings, the city has been using special software to figure out what kinds of businesses are needed in the area.

"Since Downtown Eau Claire Inc. was established in 2002, this is the highest vacancy rate that we've had," said Mike Schatz, Eau Claire's Economic Development Director.

A for rent sign here, a for rent sign there; they're popping up more than ever in downtown Eau Claire these days.

"Whatever your economic limits are, you can usually find something downtown. Because we still have some pretty old buildings that don't have flexibility within how they're set up, and then now we're starting to see a lot more Class A stuff with some of the new construction," Schatz said.

In all, 48 properties sit vacant as of today.

"The economic times, some businesses just couldn't make it, went out of business. Others changed locations. You had the confluence, which made several businesses have to leave because the buildings are going to get torn down. And then you have the scare of the project on the streets, the reconstruction project of South Barstow," said Schatz

Software has helped the city determine what is needed downtown.

"Hardware store, grocery store, men's clothing...all were areas that weren't being met downtown," Schatz said.

But while it waits on the economy to rebound, and the confluence project to start, the city admits it could be a while before things change.

"I think there's a lot of optimism, there's a lot of good things that could happen in the future. We just have to get through this next year or so, and then I think we'll be back doing really well again," said Schatz.

With the 48 vacancies from downtown included, there are a total of 144 vacant business properties within the city of Eau Claire.

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