Bon Iver frontman lends voice of support - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Bon Iver frontman lends voice of support for downtown development


Eau Claire (WQOW) - If you think of Eau Claire's Confluence Project as a house of cards, know that one vote has the potential to bring it down.  That's why there's an effort to have all the big questions answered before that vote takes place this fall.  An event Thursday is another example. Supporters of the $80 million project took questions. 

Both Zach Halmstad, the founder of JAMF and Bon Iver frontman, Justin Vernon, stated their case for a community arts facility.  

Vernon says, "In every community there's a time when people get together and make a decision for a deeper future."

Confluence Project Developer, Dan Clumpner, says, "We do need municipal involvement."

Confluence project developers are asking the Eau Claire City Council to commit $10 million. "We need support from the city of Eau Claire, unquestionably, that's very important for the project," explains Clumpner.  

And without that support he says,"I think the question is, if there's no city funding participation in the project, the project probably won't move forward." That means there's a lot riding on upcoming city council meetings.

UW-Eau Claire Chancellor, James Schmidt, says, "The university is in desperate need of a theater solution. We are 100 percent behind this process. If for some reason the local community decides this isn't the right thing to do, and I would hope it wouldn't, the university will have to try to do this on our own."

Vernon says, "We would be playing a lot more than we are now. No offense to the university but playing Zorn Arena was tough."

Halmstad says, "Everything that we've done at JAMF, all the hard decisions that we've made about staying downtown, we've done so because we believe in Eau Claire. We believe it can continue to get better and this is a huge step in that."

The money from the city isn't the only factor, so is fundraising. "We need to get a certain amount of money to make this go. There are pieces of the pie that need to be filled," explains Vernon.  

Vernon also announced he plans to help in the outreach to meet the $10 to $12 million philanthropy goal. The question was also raised on whether he would make a donation of his own. "When we get further along I'd like to make some kind of financial contribution. I don't know what that is, I don't know exactly what I can afford," says Vernon.  

Clumpner says part of getting everyone on board is making sure everyone's questions are answered.  "I think everybody wants assurance that the performing arts venue is going to function viably and be sustainable and we're pretty convinced that it is," says Clumpner.

Another topic that came up Thursday was the status of the historic buildings on Barstow.  WQOW News 18 asked Clumpner what hurdles they had to clear before the buildings would be torn down.  He says they have been in touch with the state about the process. He says it comes down to whether there is state money involved in the building with student housing.  He says the plans are to fund that privately, that means the state would not have to be involved.

Earlier this month the Eau Claire Landmarks Commission voted to hold a public hearing on whether 6 South Barstow, or the old Kline Department Store, should be considered a local landmark. A public hearing will be held on that in October. Clumpner says he doesn't believe that will hold up the process.

That's one thing an Eau Claire City council member wanted to know. What hurdles remain with historic buildings? Thursday WQOW News 18 learned about a meeting in the works in Madison to discuss the project.

That meeting could include lawmakers, the UW System, the Eau Claire City Council and developers.  The city council member WQOW News 18 talked to says it's important to get everyone in the same room to answer key questions about the project.

They hope the meeting will happen within a month.  Senator Moulton's office says it would be an informational meeting, but says plans are still in the preliminary stages.

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