Eau Claire (WQOW) - As the public conversation of Eau Claire's Confluence Project continues, one question that keeps coming up is about a troubled downtown hotel.
Several citizens have wondered why UW-Eau Claire is not interested in the former Ramada for student housing, instead of building new space for students as part of the Confluence Project.
A university spokesman says that idea has come up before, but they don't feel the building fits into their long term plan. UW-Eau Claire does not have enough student housing to meet demand. For years, the Plaza hotel has been used to house students. The university says the ultimate goal is to get students out of a hotel setting and into apartment-style housing. "The Ramada does not have a suitable structure for us to be able to look at that in terms of the priorities of the housing of our master plan," said UW-Eau Claire Assistant Chancellor Mike Rindo.
Developers also say the Ramada is not an option because it would be much more expensive to remodel a hotel into apartment-style housing. Earlier this year, developers announced they would not pursue state funding for the student housing portion of the Confluence Project. Instead, it will be privately funded.
The Ramada has been through two foreclosure auctions already this year and could be headed for a third. There's a court hearing on Friday that could answer that question.
Student housing is one part of the Confluence Project. A public plaza is another feature. You're being asked to weigh in on ideas for that plaza and now, you're being given more time. The deadline to register for workshops has been extended. You now have until November 4th to register. The West Central Regional Planning Commission is holding the workshops. Right now, there are about 75 people signed up, but the commission is hoping for more. "Many residents might not understand that the Haymarket Plaza is part of that larger development project proposed for downtown. We're going to focus in on that 1.5 acres and it's going to be the front door to those adjacent properties," said Chris Straight from the West Central Regional Planning Commission. The workshops are scheduled for November 6th and 9th in downtown Eau Claire.
Here are a few more notes about the project: The Confluence Council Task Force met for the first time on Thursday. The group will work on a model for what the management team of the community arts center could look like. No major decisions were made on Thursday.
Results of a citizen survey for the Eau Claire County Budget have been revealed. One question was about the Confluence Project. It read, "The county has been asked to make a one-time $5 million contribution for the construction of the Confluence Project. What is your opinion?" More than 500 people responded with 51% opposed, 31% were in support and about 18% would prefer to see the county contribute less than $5 million. The county has not taken up that request yet.