Downtown business supports Confluence Project with pledge - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Downtown business supports Confluence Project with six-figure pledge

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Zach Halmstad Zach Halmstad
Jason Wudi Jason Wudi

Eau Claire (WQOW) - An Eau Claire business comes forward to support the downtown Confluence Project, with a six-figure pledge. 

Organizers are seeking city, county and state funds to help pay for the development of student housing, retail space and a community arts center.  The project will cost more than $80 million. Organizers are also raising money privately, which is where Wednesday's announcement comes in.

The donation comes from a business that just had a major announcement of its own. JAMF Software recently announced it's interested in expanding its headquarters. 

On Wednesday, JAMF Software announced it will donate $500,000 to the Confluence Project.

"We are deeply committed to this downtown, this community, and what we are doing," says Jason Wudi, the Chief Cultural Officer for JAMF Software.

The donation will give JAMF naming rights to the black box theater. "We've been putting this money away for years and we decided it was time to break a chunk off and give something back to the community," says JAMF Software Co-Founder, Zach Halmstad.

JAMF says one third of its employees are UW-Eau Claire graduates, including Halmstad. 

"When you can have a music major, start a major software company, it doesn't get any better than that. The left brain and the right brain need to work together. Projects like this are key to developing and nurturing the creative economy, "said Ben Richgruber, the Director of the Eau Claire Regional Arts Center, about Halmstad. 

The donation pushes private fundraising over $3.5 million. Organizers are trying to raise $10 to $13 million.

Kimera Way, the President of the UW-Eau Claire Foundation, says, "We have been working with a number of individuals in a project called 50 With 50, where we're seeking 50 gifts of $50,000 each and we're well along on the progress of that project."

Project developers are still waiting for other stakeholders to commit.  "I hope that that's a motivator for the city and the county and the state to see that, yes indeed, the private citizens want this to happen and are committing," says Way.

Halmstad says, "We can't wait for the project to get started and can't wait to be there for opening night."

Last year RCU also pledged $1 million toward the project. These pledges are conditional; they depend on getting funding from all the other stakeholders.

There are still many details we are waiting to hear, including how the community arts center will be run. We are still waiting to review a study by a company called Venuworks. Developers say they are sending it in for a third and final draft.  That study was originally expected to be completed last fall. Developers say to expect it sometime in early April.

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EAU CLAIRE (Press Release) - JAMF Software has pledged $500,000 to support the construction of a new community arts center at the confluence of the Chippewa and Eau Claire rivers in downtown Eau Claire.

The community arts center is the centerpiece of the public-private partnership known as the Confluence Project, a project that also includes plans to construct a commercial/retail complex and University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire student housing at the downtown site.

The $500,000 pledge announced today would help fund the construction of, and give JAMF Software naming rights associated with, the community arts center's 250-seat black box theater.

"We're very proud to support a community arts center in Eau Claire," said Zach Halmstad, JAMF Software co-founder and a 2004 UW-Eau Claire music graduate. "Because the benefits of the arts are difficult to quantify, many communities are supporting them less and less. I'm excited to see our city embrace this project, and I think it speaks volumes about the character and quality of our community. We have a bright and exciting future, and the Confluence Project is a huge step forward for us."

The pledge was announced Wednesday during a news conference at the State Theatre in downtown Eau Claire.

"We are very grateful for JAMF Software's early commitment to the Confluence community arts center and our goal to create a transformational opportunity for Eau Claire's downtown," said George Stroebel, a member of Blugold Real Estate LLC, which is part of Confluence Project partner Haymarket Concepts LLC. "Their generous financial commitment provides a renewed sense of energy, while their confidence in the project's future is contagious."

The support for the Confluence Project community arts center is an extension of JAMF Software's commitment to a vibrant future for downtown and the city of Eau Claire, said Jason Wudi, chief cultural officer for JAMF Software and a 2001 UW-Eau Claire management information systems graduate.

JAMF Software and Commonweal Development Corp. also recently announced a proposed plan for construction of a 65,000-square-foot JAMF Software office building on Riverfront Terrace in Eau Claire's Phoenix Park neighborhood. The company's desire to build there is directly related to the plans for the nearby construction of the Confluence Project, Wudi said.

"Many of us grew up here, went to school at UW-Eau Claire, and are raising our families in this community," Wudi said. "We see the downtown as the best place to help develop the rich experiences the Confluence Project will bring — all while maintaining a wonderful proximity to the services, businesses, housing and outdoor activities within walking distance of our workplace. We believe that the Confluence Project and our commitment to quality office facilities downtown will help attract and retain a top-talent pool. We are excited to see and be part of the continued growth of the thriving downtown community."

JAMF Software, which develops and sells management software for the Apple platform, has rented offices in downtown Eau Claire for five years. Its Eau Claire operation has grown from four employees in 2008 to 94 employees today, and the company expects that number to grow to 150 or 200 by the end of 2014. The proposed Riverfront Terrace building could hold up to 380 employees.

Founded in Eau Claire in 2002 and now headquartered in Minneapolis, the company currently has a total of 178 employees at its locations worldwide (including New York City; Cupertino, Calif.; Amsterdam; and Hong Kong). Thirty-five percent of JAMF Software employees are UW-Eau Claire graduates, and the company also maintains a strong internship program with UW-Eau Claire.

The JAMF Software commitment to the community arts center is conditional upon the successful acquisition of state, city of Eau Claire and Eau Claire County funding, as well as the approvals needed for the construction of the Confluence Project.

Members of the Confluence Project public-private partnership are Haymarket Concepts LLC, composed of Market & Johnson Inc., Commonweal Development Corp. and Blugold Real Estate LLC, a subsidiary of the UW-Eau Claire Foundation; the Eau Claire Regional Arts Council; and UW-Eau Claire. The city of Eau Claire and Eau Claire County also are potential partners in the development.

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