Eau Claire (WQOW) - News 18 has its Eye on Eau Claire on Wednesday as development is popping up all over the place. On water street, crews are currently working on a new mixed-use building.
Crews are working on the basement level of the future four-story building. A representative with University Area Housing said the first floor will have retail shops, including a national bank, grocery store and investment agencies. He said they know which bank and grocery store will be moving in but declined to comment on the name of those businesses. News 18 reported in mid-April that the $12 million project is being built in the location of the former El Patio, Taco Johns and Associated Bank. Staff said construction should wrap up in August 2017.
Across town, another construction project with a flair for food from across the border. Taco Bell is coming to Eau Claire's west side, across from Menard's west, off of North Clairemont Avenue. An architect for the project said the 2,200 square-foot building will seat up to 52 people and there will be a drive-through window. He said staff plan to begin training workers in early December and open shortly after.
A busy year in construction, renovation and expansion projects has Eau Claire city officials weighing-in on what might be contributing to the uptick. Mike Schatz, the director of the Eau Claire Economic Development Department, said his department has seen an increase in the number of people calling in to find out more information on starting up their business. Schatz said businesses that are expanding, like Action City and Micon Cinemas, are increasing their services because of an interest in investing in the public infrastructure.
"You need to have the things people want, not just in their professional life but when they have, in their leisure time,” Schatz said. “I think we have more options here now to stay here. There's more going on to bring tourists to the community, and I think some of the businesses that are expanding are meeting that market niche that's kind of tourism related."
Schatz said in his 31 year career in the city's economic development department, 2016 has been an excellent year in the number of developments that have taken shape, including The Lismore, Oxbow Hotel and Haymarket Landing.
As mentioned, Action City is just one of the businesses adding on in 2016. Staff at Action City said construction and renovations inside and outside the building began more than one month ago. Staff said they've created the foundation for the 30,000 square foot indoor facility for its a trampoline park, indoor playground and Ninja Warrior courses.
Benny Anderson, the general manager for Metropolis Resort, said recently, staff removed its outdoor maze course in order to make way for the construction of other new attractions. “Outdoor, next summer (2017), we're going to have a zip-line, an outdoor go-kart track there's going to be a new one with go-karts and a new layout,” Anderson said. Staff said they hope to open the new indoor attractions on December 20.
Just down the road, an Eau Claire movie theater is rolling out with its own renovations. Staff at Micon Cinemas in Eau Claire said they started remodeling three of their seven theaters on Monday. Connie Olson, the vice president of Micon Cinemas, said the estimated $2 million project also includes building a bar and lounge that will offer appetizers, pizza and drinks. News 18 reported in August the Eau Claire City Council unanimously approved a liquor license for the movie theater. Olson said the movie industry and watching experience is changing. In order to accommodate this, she said the original theater seatings will be replaced by recliners and its movie screens will be replaced with new ones.
"That's the sad part. These auditoriums each held about 100 seats. Putting in recliners will cut that in half about,” Olson said. “So, the number (of seats) will definitely go down. It will be much nicer to sit in an auditorium and watch it in a recliner. Maybe, then, we'll sell out the theaters over and over again because people will want to watch it in there. It does cut the seating down to half."
Olson said Micon Cinemas plan to open its newly remodeled theaters by late November, in time for the busy holiday season.