Images & Details: Developers Propose Big Block 7 Plans for Downtown Eau Claire

Tom Giffey

Block 7 (in downtown Eau Claire) development concept from Pablo Properties.
Block 7 (in downtown Eau Claire) development concept from Pablo Properties.

A new children’s museum, apartments, restaurants, a brew pub, plazas, a complex of repurposed shipping containers that could be rented by entrepreneurs – these are just a few of the ideas proposed for two undeveloped plots of land in downtown Eau Claire. The City of Eau Claire on Friday released details of the proposals to radically redevelop the North Barstow Street parcels, which are generally known as Block 7 (currently a temporary parking lot) and the “liner” site (which is between the street and the new downtown parking ramp). Three developers – Commonweal Development, Pablo Properties, and Merge Urban Development Group – offered plans for both sites, while a fourth, Monarch Ventures, has plans for the liner site alone.

“The proposals reflect positively on the public and private collaborative redevelopment efforts in the North Barstow District and indicate continued strong market interest in Downtown Eau Claire,” Scott Allen, the city’s community development director, wrote in a cover memo to members of the board of the city Redevelopment Authority, which owns the properties. Allen said city staff members have already conducted in-person interviews with the developers. Next, the RDA board will meet at 7:30am Tuesday, Oct. 23, at the Eau Claire County Courthouse, 721 Oxford Ave. After a presentation and discussion on the proposed projects, the RDA will meet in closed session to discuss negotiation strategy on selecting a developer.

Here are some details from each of the four plans:

COMMONWEAL DEVELOPMENT

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Block 7 development concept with apartments and Children's Museum. Click for a biggie.

Eau Claire-based Commonweal Development created a plan with River Valley Architects for both sites. Here’s part of their summary: “Commonweal Development is interested in developing a high quality mixed-use project on the Block 7 and Liner sites in Downtown Eau Claire. The proposed project would include housing, a new home for the Eau Claire Children’s Museum and outdoor green space on Block 7 along with a four-story office building, that would include a drive-up facility on the Liner site.” Among other things, the proposed museum would include a “River Wall” representing the Chippewa River, Eau Claire River, and Half Moon Lake and would be connected to the existing parking ramp by an elevated walkway over Galloway Street. A preliminary sketch of Block 7 also includes a “green roof patio” atop part of the children’s museum, a playground, and a community garden adjacent to a four-story apartment/retail building on the north end of the property.

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Block 7 concept showing Children's Museum. Click for a biggie.
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Left: Liner building site. Right: Block 7. Click for a biggie.

MERGE URBAN DEVELOPMENT GROUP

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Children's Museum concept on Block 7. Click for a biggie.

Merge Urban Development Group is a multi-firm collaboration of Echo Development Group (Cedar Falls, Iowa), Slingshot Architecture (Des Moines, Iowa), and Lancaster Investments (Madison). Their proposal, dubbed Andante, would be built in three phases between 2019 and 2022, and would include 240 residential units, 170 underground parking stalls, 10,000 square feet of retail space, and a new children’s museum. According to the proposal, Merge already has commitments from three retails to occupy space on Block 7: “a fresh fast/casual eatery that will utilize local produce”; “a specialty grocer perfect for picking up meats and cheese on the walk to Phoenix Park”; and “an award-winning, modern brew pub.” The development would have a market value of $36 million, not including the museum, Merge said.

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Liner building site apartment concept with Children's Museum in background. Click for a biggie.

PABLO PROPERTIES

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Liner building site "container park" concept. Click for a biggie.

Pablo Properties, which also built the Jamf office building overlooking Phoenix Park and redeveloped the Lismore Hotel, has proposed “a four-story 125,000-square-foot Class A office, a new home for the Children’s Museum, a central plaza, and underground parking on Block 7. An integral part of this proposal is the development of the adjacent Liner Site which will become The Stacks, a dynamic container park for entrepreneurs and community gatherings.” The plans go on to describe The Stacks as “a series of rentable repurposed shipping containers, targeted for retail, café, or service use.” Inside a perimeter built of shipping containers will be a “year-round patio space with seating and event space for outdoor movies in the summer and an ice rink in the winter.” Pablo Properties’ timeline is aggressive: A grand opening is envisioned in the summer of 2020, and the total project would be worth $32 million.

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Liner building site "container park" concept. Click for a biggie.
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Block 7 concept with Children's Museum and office space. Click for a biggie.
Click for a biggie.
Block 7 (top) and the liner building site (bottom). Click for a biggie.

MONARCH VENTURES

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Restaurant, apartment, and condo complex concept for liner building site. Click for a biggie.

Unlike the other three developers’ plans, Monarch Ventures only has eyes on the liner site. According to the document released by the city, Monarch “proposes to build and ow a multi-use complex … (that) will include a restaurant, apartment and condo complex with dedicated parking the the tenants/owners and a rooftop bar/event space.” Monarch Ventures, of Hudson, says it would also consider the project on the railroad lot site (roughly across the street) if another development is chosen for the liner site. Construction would start in 2019 and be complete by 2020.

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