Confluence Project: A look into Act II - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Confluence Project: A look into Act II


Eau Claire (WQOW) - The landscape of downtown Eau Claire is becoming a little clearer after Tuesday's press conference revealing the big plans for the Confluence Project's Arts Center. 


May of 2012 was when the public first heard about a public partnership designed to revitalize downtown Eau Claire. More than a year later, the Confluence Project got the backing of the Eau Claire City Council. They pledged $5 million to the arts center in October 2013. The following April, voters gave their stamp of approval with a county-wide referendum to pledge $3.5 million. At the same time, voters also rejected a city charter ordinance that could have put the city's $5 million contribution in jeopardy. 

Demolition began on South Barstow Street in July 2014 followed by a groundbreaking ceremony at the site of Haymarket Landing in November. The project hit a snag in the first part of 2015 when expected state funding fell short. Also in 2015, construction on part one of the Confluence Project continued in downtown Eau Claire despite a crumbling retaining wall along the river that needed replacing. 

Looking ahead, the retail and residential building, Haymarket Landing, plans to open in July around the same time that groundbreaking is planned for act two, the Confluence Arts Center. 


The curtain was finally lifted Tuesday when residents and city officials got the first look at design plans for the arts center. The three-story, 130,000-sq ft arts center will have sidewalk to sky windows running along the riverbank of the Chippewa River, and a patio for people to stop and enjoy the view. Those looking on from the river will see a combination of black stone, stained glass and copper wrapping of the building, but inside is where the bulk of the $45 million will be spent. 

Two theaters are included in the design. The larger theater would fit 1,200 to 1,500 people. The other would be a flexible, multi-purpose theater that could seat up to 400. An art gallery and recording studio are planned, as well as a dance studio and numerous rehearsal rooms. It will also house office space for Visit Eau Claire, the Eau Claire Regional Arts Council, and UW-Eau Claire faculty and staff. 

We've done it, we've taken everybody's ideas and we've boiled them down into something that will work for everyone, it's a fantastic plan," Ben Richgruber, the executive director of Eau Claire Regional Arts Council, said.  "It's fun to see everybody's thoughts come together, come to fruition, both on paper and now with these renderings."

A groundbreaking ceremony is planned for late summer 2016. The arts center is scheduled to open sometime in 2018. The Confluence Council, which is responsible for day-to-day operations, as well as staffing and scheduling, will begin booking acts later this year. 


The projected cost for the arts center is $45 million, which is $5 million more than the most recent figures, but still less than the original plan of $51 million. 

  • Eau Claire City Council pledged $5 million. 
  • Eau Claire County pledged $3 million. 
  • Wisconsin promised $15 million. 
  • $13.5 is the current philanthropy goal. 
  • $3 million will come from new market tax credits. 

Eau Claire Confluence Arts, Inc., the non-profit group that was formed to own the land and manage the project, said they will not request the additional $5 million from city, county or state government, but will, instead, seek donated or discounted building materials, pursue additional grants and increase their philanthropy goal. 


Voters with Facts is a group that has long attached its name to the Confluence Project. They have voiced their reservations about plans for the Confluence Arts Center, specifically that the group Eau Claire Confluence Arts, Inc. be identified as a non-profit. 

"There's tremendous community anticipation for this project and now that there are plans, we're hopping that the next step is competitive bidding for the entire project," Cyndi Burton, with Voters with Facts, said.  "Just like the North Barstow parking ramp the bid came in over $1 million under what was projected."

Voters with Facts believes the generosity of the community should be honored by keeping meetings and records open to the public, because as it stands right now, a non-profit organization is not required to do so. They say especially  in light of the recent county theft, keeping information from the public is not wise.  


(PRESS RELEASE) Design plans for the new Confluence Arts Center were presented to the public and news media Tuesday, FEB 9 in the lobby of the State Theatre in downtown Eau Claire. Arts Center ownership, management, and updated budget estimates were also presented at the afternoon press conference. Plans for the arts center were developed during discussions with user groups and stakeholders over the course of 10 meetings with the project’s architect and engineering design teams (Strang Inc. of Madison, and Holzman Moss Bottino Architecture of New York City.

Eau Claire Confluence Arts Inc., a newly formed community-based non-profit, will construct and own the arts center. The Confluence Council, made up of stakeholders, investors, and community leaders, which will oversee operation of the Arts Center.

Confluence Arts Center design

The three-story Confluence Arts Center will encompass approximately 130,000 square feet. It will serve the Eau Claire Regional Arts Council, UW-Eau Claire, local arts organizations and Visit Eau Claire.

The design includes the following:

* Two theatres: a large 1,200 to 1,500 capacity theater; a flexible, multi-purpose theatre that can seat up to 400 people

* a large and open lobby space overlooking a large public plaza that is part of the Confluence Project

* an intimate performance space currently called the Clearwater Room

* scene and costume shops, dressing rooms and back-of-house operations

* dance studio and music and theater rehearsal rooms that can double as performance or meeting spaces

* art gallery space and a recording studio

* a Visit Eau Claire welcome center for tourists and downtown visitors

* office space for Visit Eau Claire, the Eau Claire Regional Arts Council and UW-Eau Claire faculty and staff.

Major design elements

The exterior of the arts center features a large canopy that runs the length of the building, along Graham Avenue, covering the front entrance. Anticipated exterior finishes are black stone, glass (including stained glass) and copper. The exterior also includes 15-foot-wide patio area on the building’s west side, running along the Chippewa River.

The large theater design features a traditional styled theater that provides fixed seating for 1,200 and standing-room only seating that increases theatre capacity to 1,500. It is designed to function as a concert hall and a theatre. This dual use will be accomplished through the incorporation of a sound shell that will match the interior of the theatre when in concert hall configuration and a curtain-draped proscenium for theatrical productions. The standing-room only configuration will be made possible through the removal of seats on the orchestra level of the large theater directly in front of the stage. Once the seats are removed, the standing-room-only section will be a flat floor.

The large theater includes a balcony and also box-style balcony seating extending along the sides of the theatre.

The stage of the large theatre measures 40 feet by 80 feet (approximately twice as large as the stage at Eau Claire’s State Theatre), capable of accommodating large orchestral and choral groups, dance ensembles, major theatrical productions, music concerts and other performances. The theater will be equipped with state-of-the-art theatrical and sound equipment to support a wide array of performances.

The flexible theater’s design provides seating for up to 400 in a variety of seating configurations. The flexible theater will have fixed seats that can be installed or removed on a track system (high-quality seats similar to fixed theatrical seating). The flexible theatre has balcony seating on three sides. The floor of the flexible theater will be flat and able to accommodate seating arrangements like theater in the round, thrust or other nontraditional configurations.

The interior of the flexible theater will have an industrial feel: exposed red brick or block walls and the theatrical equipment clearly visible to audience members. It will be unlike any performance space currently available in the Eau Claire region, resembling those typically found only in larger metropolitan areas, and will provide artistic directors and performers myriad options for staging of productions.

The Lobby of the arts center will be adjacent to the planned public plaza, at the corner of Eau Claire Street and Graham Avenue, between the arts center and Haymarket Landing, the building currently under construction. The lobby will serve both theaters and will be large enough to accommodate simultaneous performances in both theaters. The multi-story tall lobby will face north and feature expansive views of the Chippewa River, visible through a wall of windows.

Estimated price of arts center increases

May 2012, when the Confluence Project was first announced, it was estimated the arts center would cost approximately $51 million. That estimate was based largely on anticipation of $25 million from the State of Wisconsin. When Gov. Scott Walker announced in January 2015 that he would include $15 million in state funding for the project in his proposed budget, project partners made modifications to the original arts

center concept, based on a $40 million project. When that decision was made, partners also indicated that the design could not compromise the overall vision, mission and functionality of the arts center.

The arts center as designed meets the stated and demonstrated needs of UW-Eau Claire, the Eau Claire Regional Arts Council, local arts organizations and Visit Eau Claire. It also provides sufficient flexibility to accommodate future educational and other programming growth not currently envisioned.

To fully understand the estimated cost of constructing the arts center as designed, a detailed cost estimate was performed. Based on that estimate, the current cost of the arts center is $45 million. Project partners are determined that, rather than make any significant changes to the arts center, as originally conceived, they will pursue more funding sources in order to meet the additional $5 million cost.

There will be no request for additional funding from city, county or state government.

The current identified funding sources and amounts for the arts center are:

* $5 million, city of Eau Claire

* $3.5 million, Eau Claire County

* $15 million, state of Wisconsin non-agency grant

* $13.5 million, philanthropy

* $3 million, new market tax credits.

An additional $5 million will raised as follows: increase the philanthropy goal by an amount still to be determined; seeking donated or discounted building materials and in-kind construction-related services; pursuing additional grants and funds from regional and national foundations and other sources who have made contributions in the past to projects similar to the Confluence Arts Center. Naming rights for the arts center building and other facilities within the arts center are also available for individuals or entities interested in such opportunities.


Eau Claire (WQOW) - On Tuesday stakeholders revealed the new design plans for the Confluence Arts Center, that will sit along Graham Avenue in downtown Eau Claire on what is now a vacant lot.

The Confluence Arts Center will be three floors and 130,000-sq ft. It will have 259 doors, and about 3,700-pounds of drywall screws. There will be two theaters, the larger will have 1,200 fixed seats with a total capacity of 1,500. The stage will be 40 by 80-ft.

According to the floor plans, the first level of the Confluence Arts Center will house a main lobby area, a music rehearsal room, gallery, visitor center, restrooms and offices. The second level of the Confluence Arts Center will have more offices, a conference room, classrooms, and storage and production areas. The third level will have a VIP lounge, Clear Water Hall, more rehearsal rooms, changing and storage rooms and recording studios.

Stakeholders said many of the rooms will overlook the river and can be rented for weddings or events. A Madison architect and design teams from New York developed the plans over the course of 10 meetings with user groups and stakeholders.

The Eau Claire Confluence Arts, Inc is the non-profit organization that now owns the land where the Confluence Arts Center will be built. The organization will also own the Arts Center and will be the owner contracting for the construction of the Arts Center. The Confluence Council is the organization that will be responsible for the day-to-day operation of the center, staffing, scheduling, budgeting and development of policies and procedures.

To date, more that $12 million has been raised locally to support the arts center and $23.5 million has been pledged by the state, city and county of Eau Claire. Now that a private organization owns the center, public safeguards and transparency are not required to take place in the form of open meetings and records.

The Confluence Arts Center is estimated to cost $45 million. There will be a ground breaking around the end of July or early August, with plans to open in mid 2018.


Eau Claire (WQOW)- On Tuesday stakeholders plan to lift the curtain on design plans for the Confluence Arts Center. 

Those behind the project say a Madison architect and design teams from New York developed the plans over the course of 10 meetings with user groups and stakeholders.  The Confluence Arts Center will sit along Graham Avenue in downtown Eau Claire on what is now a vacant lot, next to the other half of the Confluence Project, a six story building that features housing and commercial space. 

Design plans for the Confluence Arts Center are set to be revealed Tuesday, at 1 p.m. in the lobby of the State Theatre in downtown Eau Claire. You can count on Eau Claire's own News 18 for complete coverage of the announcement. We'll be live streaming it on our website. Make sure to join us on air for our evening coverage at 5:00, 6:00 and 10:00.  


(Press Release) -  Design plans for the new Confluence Arts Center will be presented to the public and news media at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 9, in the lobby of the State Theatre in downtown Eau Claire.

Plans for the arts center were developed during discussions with user groups and stakeholders over the course of 10 meetings with the architect and engineering design teams led by Strang Architects of Madison, and Holzman, Moss and Bottino of New York City.

In addition to presenting design plans for the arts center, project partners will provide information about the ownership role of Eau Claire Confluence Arts Inc., the non-profit group that will construct and own the arts center, as well as the Confluence Council, which will oversee operations of the arts center.

More than $12.5 million has been raised locally so far in philanthropic gifts and commitments to build the arts center. Another $23.5 million has been pledged by state, county and city government. Fundraisers are seeking $2 million in additional donations from area residents and businesses.

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