On Deck for Phoenix Park

Commonweal Development to break ground in October

Trevor Kupfer

The proposed buildings would have 51 units (combined), underground parking, balconies, a communal patio, and a rooftop terrace. Also: windows.
 
The proposed buildings would have 51 units (combined), underground parking, balconies, a communal patio, and a rooftop terrace. Also: windows.

Looking at Phoenix Park now, some Eau Clairians can faintly remember the proposed three-phase plan to develop it into a park, business sector, and neighborhood let alone the days when it was a skeleton of a former industrial site. If you do remember the original plan, you’ll soon realize that a two-building project set to break ground in October is straying from the original vision – and, hopefully, for the better.

The three mixed-use buildings that have been erected thus far, by Moeding Partners, were part of the first phase. But several months ago Moeding decided to opt out of the future phases, leaving two blocks available for other developers. Enter Commonweal Development Corporation, whose plan for two residential buildings between RCU and Wisconsin Street on Riverfront Terrace just passed the Plan Commission and Redevelopment Authority.

“We’re not so much targeting an age group as a mindset, which is the urban renewal.” – Commonweal Development’s Scott Schaefer, on the new phase of Phoenix Park

“I think it’s gonna add to the desirability of living downtown, and create a neighborhood with more of an urban mass,” said Stuart Schaefer, of Commonweal. “Hopefully it’ll spread to other areas and really form a new neighborhood down there. There’s a great start, and hopefully demand continues.”

Nationwide there has been a trend to reverse what happened a half-century ago, when people fled downtowns to create cookie-cutter subdivisions in the burbs. Now downtowns have been re-embraced, and even though the cost of renting apartments in Phoenix Park is well over the Eau Claire average, according to Schaefer, there’s only one vacancy right now.

In the original Phase II, the site of the new buildings was reserved for condominiums. The idea was to target the “empty nesters” market in Eau Claire, and add to the diversity of the neighborhood. But Schaefer said, “If you walked into a bank right now and asked to fund condos, they’d say, ‘Are you sure you’re in the right place?’ That market’s just not going right now.”



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