Pablo Properties Picked to Build on Block 7, Liner Sites Downtown

Tom Giffey

Click for a biggie.
Pablo's liner building site "container park" concept. Click for a biggie.

The City of Eau Claire Redevelopment Authority has picked Pablo Properties as the developer for two sought-after downtown plots. The RDA voted unanimously Wednesday morning to sign a memorandum of understanding that gives Eau Claire-based Pablo Properties 90 days to reach an agreement with the city on developing the so-called Block 7 and liner sites on North Barstow Street.

Last month, Pablo Properties was among three development groups that presented plans for the properties. (The others were Commonweal Development and Merge Urban Development Group.) Pablo’s plans for Block 7 – which is currently a surface parking lot across from The Livery – include 125,000 square feet of Class A office space, a new home for the Children’s Museum of Eau Claire, first-floor retail space, a public plaza, and underground parking. The liner site – which is located in front of the new downtown parking ramp – will be transformed into “The Stacks,” which Pablo describes as “a container park that offers low start-up investment opportunities with shared infrastructure to dining, service, and retail businesses.”

Click for a biggie.
Block 7 (top) and the liner building site (bottom). Click for a biggie.

After meeting for roughly two hours in closed session Wednesday morning, members of the RDA reconvened to vote. Several of them voiced praise for the plans that had been presented to them by developers on Oct. 23. “It’s one of the stronger groups of proposals the RDA has seen,” said longtime RDA member Jeff Halloin.

“I found their creative use of space and design to be a compelling vision for this area of downtown,” added member Tom Kemp of why he favored the Pablo proposal.

Click for a biggie.
Block 7 concept with Children's Museum and office space. Click for a biggie.

In a statement, Pablo Properties said was was excited to move forward. “We have big plans that fill gaps in our community,” said Julia Johnson, a partner in Pablo Properties. “It was nerve-wracking to know that if we were not selected, we might not find a better spot to build these plans.”

In addition to providing Class A office space downtown – which is something sough-after by businesses – Pablo’s proposal also includes a small grocery store, Johnson said.

Pablo Properties, which also built the Jamf office building overlooking Phoenix Park and redeveloped the Lismore Hotel, is a venture founded by Johnson, Zach Halmstad, and Jason Wudi.

An integral part of their downtown proposal is the development of the liner site which will become The Stacks, “a dynamic container park for entrepreneurs and community gatherings.” Pablo’s 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.”

 

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

 Pablo Properties’ timeline is aggressive: Construction would start next year and be finished by 2020, and the total project would be worth $32 million. According to the memorandum of understanding, Pablo will seek tax increment financing from the city for the project.

In addition to allowing 90 days to reach a final purchase and development agreement between Pablo and the RDA, the memorandum of understanding allows for a 90-day extension if the parties agree.

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