City Eyes Redevelopment of Cannery District With ‘Maker’ Theme

Tom Giffey, photos by Andrea Paulseth

MAKING IT NEW. The Brewing Projekt, 1807 N. Oxford Ave., is an example of the kind of “maker” development the city would like to see in the Cannery District.
MAKING IT NEW. The Brewing Projekt, 1807 N. Oxford Ave., is an example of the kind of “maker” development the city would like to see in the Cannery District.

A revised plan for the redevelopment of the Cannery District on Eau Claire’s near west side is expected to call for higher-density housing, a relocated neighborhood park, and a cluster of businesses that reflect and continue the neighborhood’s history of ingenuity.

“The overall district is kind of seen as a ‘makers’ district,’ ” said Aaron White, economic development manager for the City of Eau Claire. In the early 20th century, the neighborhood – which lies along the west bank of the Chippewa River north of Madison Street – was home to the Lange Canning Co. Today, aspects of this constructive, creative tradition are manifested through the newly expanded Brewing Projekt and the Eau Claire Children’s Theatre. 

“The overall district is kind of seen as a ‘makers’ district.’ ” – Eau Claire Economic Development Manager Aaron White, on the draft redevelopment plans for the Cannery District

When it is finalized, the latest redevelopment plan for the Cannery District will call for the creation of a commercial and retail cluster at the corner of Platt Street and Oxford Avenue, just north of the children’s theater building. The draft plan calls for 30,000 square feet of commercial space for businesses like artist studios, craft bakers, and artisan wood shops, White said.

The city-appointed Redevelopment Authority, which has bought up underutilized property in the neighborhood in recent years, recently was presented a draft version of a new redevelopment plan for the district by Madison-based Vandewalle & Associates. The RDA provided input and is expected to approve the final document by the end of the year. 

The RDA also weighed in with several other decisions on the redevelopment plan in mid-October:

• Replacing Kessler Park, a one-square-block neighborhood park between Maple and Walnut streets, with 26 townhomes, and creating a new park just to the east. White said the city’s parks department will work with neighborhood residents to see what kind of amenities the new park would include.

• Opting for a more dense approach to commercial and residential development near the riverside along Oxford Avenue, just north of the Brewing Projekt. The RDA’s preferred option calls for a mixed-use development of 52,000 square feet of residential space, 13,900 square feet of commercial space, and parking.

As soon as the final plan is approved, White expects developers to begin to step forward with ideas for the roughly 41-acre district. Some of this development could begin as soon as next year, he said. “This (redevelopment plan) really provides a guideline or a playbook how we’d like to develop that area, but it really comes down to the developers and the builders putting down a proposal that they can make a profit on,” he said.

The RDA had approved the original redevelopment plan for the district in early 2017. That plan contained commercial and residential development, but it also called for a great deal of park space in the neighborhood. However, the city later determined that the the taxes generated by private development in the neighborhood wouldn’t be enough to pay for all those public amenities. “It was going to be difficult, if not impossible, to do all the improvements and help all the development occur,” White said. “The price tag was just too high.” As a result, the share of land slated for private development was increased, and in July the City Council approved the creation of a special Tax Increment District for the Cannery. In such districts, the amount of new property taxes generated by new development is used to offset development of public amenities such as streets, trails, and parks.

And the Cannery District will still feature plenty of green space, including an uninterrupted strip between the Chippewa River State Trail and the river bank, all the way from the High Bridge to Madison Street.