If you can’t already tell from the likes of Irvine, Menomin, and Rod & Gun parks (in Chippewa Falls, Menomonie, and Eau Claire respectively), our area planners can draw up plans for beautiful parks like nobody’s business. But in the case of Phoenix Park (and the subsequent community cropping up around it) we needed more than just a plan, we needed business leaders with vision.
Charlie Grossklaus and Geoff Moeding were those people. Grossklaus made the push for Royal Credit Union to create an ambitious headquarters in the space that would become the cutting-edge and award-winning park, and this initial private investment is what got the entire plan off the ground. Without RCU, it’s possible we may still be sitting with an empty former industrial site on the riverfront.
Moeding, an Eau Claire-based developer (along with partner Michael Lander) came in later and pushed the ambitious vision further, by extending Eau Claire’s nice new park into Eau Claire’s nice new neighborhood.
Their plan brought four mixed-use buildings to the park, with blends of urban rentals or offices on the upper floors and commercial retail on the ground. And now additional developers are following suit. Not only did these two instrumental figures make the downtown gem possible, but they actually influenced the entire design (for which Phil Johnson and Phil Fieber from EC’s parks department deserve credit, along with the Labyrinth Committee). And now any time a project comes up and calls for ambition in economic development and aesthetics (like Eau Claire’s West Riverside District and Chippewa Falls’ Downtown Entrance Park), Phoenix Park is the first thing mentioned. It’s the new benchmark for success, and direct evidence that our parks and city centers are worthy investments.