Monday, Nov. 26th, 2018

UPDATE: Eau Claire City Council Votes to Allow Urban Chickens

Your sassy new neighbor?
Your sassy new neighbor?

UPDATE: On an 8-2 vote, the Eau Claire City Council approved an ordinance on Nov. 27 that will allow city residents to keep up to five hens to produce chickens for their own family's use.

The Eau Claire City Council is poised to consider a change in city ordinances that would allow for the keeping of chickens on residential properties within city limits. The last time chicken legalization was discussed by the council was in 2010, and the measure failed in an 8-3 vote. Acting President Andrew Werthmann was one of the three supporting votes at the time, and he is the only remaining member of the council who was involved in the vote.

“This is really about us becoming a more self-sufficient community.” – Andrew Werthmann, Eau Claire City Council

Werthmann has been collaborating with property managers, the Hmong Mutual Assistance Association, the Eau Claire City-County Health Department, and a pro-chicken group called Eau Claire Leaders for Urban Chicken Keeping (ECLUCK) to draft an ordinance that takes the needs of all involved parties into account. It considers the results of other community’s adventures in allowing urban chicken keeping, he said.

“This is really about us becoming a more self-sufficient community,” Werthmann said. He believes chicken keeping is an avenue to food security, a tool to defend against the rising cost of living, and a way to improve access to healthier food. Werthmann has also mentioned the potential of urban chicken keeping to reduce tick populations in the area.

A public hearing on the proposed ordinance was scheduled for Monday, Nov. 26 – the day this issue of Volume One went to press. The council was slated to vote on the matter on Tuesday, Nov. 27.

The updated ordinance would allow Eau Claire residents to keep up to five hens per year, with an explicit ban on roosters. Once an application for a poultry license is made, the city would notify all owners of property within 100 feet of the applicant’s property. Owners of abutting property would have the option to object to the issuance of a license, which would be determined by the city. 

The ordinance would also establish guidelines for raising and slaughtering the chickens in a sanitary, safe way. This includes creating standards for storing food, building and maintaining coops, circumstances of slaughter, and providing a minimum of space for each bird. A fee that will cover the cost of associated city inspections would accompany the application for a poultry license. In subsequent years, poultry owners would need to apply for renewal of the license, likely at a reduced rate, Werthmann said. As the ordinance is currently written, city and health department staff would have the power to enter a building, structure, or property associated with a poultry license whenever they deem it necessary to determine compliance with the poultry ordinance.  If passed, the ordinance will take effect Jan. 1.

“Growing our own food is in our DNA, it’s in our culture,” Werthmann added, speaking to Eau Claire’s history with agriculture.

Comments 2

Wednesday, Nov. 21st, 2018

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

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.

Comments 3

Tuesday, Nov. 13th, 2018

Pablo Properties Purchases Racy's, The Nucleus

The Racy's half of Racy D’Lene’s Coffee Lounge and The Nucleus Café

A pet-welcoming, art-sporting Water St. breakfast, brunch, and coffee hotspot has new ownership as of Tuesday this week. Pablo Properties purchased Racy D’Lene’s Coffee Lounge and The Nucleus Café at 404 Riverside Ave. and 405 Water Street on Nov. 12. If you’re a regular, fear not for your brews and tasty breakfast cocktails: the new ownership says they’re not in it to mix things up.  “We do not intend to make any significant changes,” Zach Halmstad, Pablo Properties partner, said. “The staff, menu, prices, and environment will all stay the same.” However, the company does intend to explore expanding the use of local and sustainable ingredients and improving employee benefits, according to a press release.  “When we were approached about taking it over, we were excited for the opportunity to be the next stewards of this institution,” Halmstad said. “We are excited to welcome the employees to the Pablo Family and to continue the long tradition of feeding and caffeinating Eau Claire.”

Comments 18

Monday, Nov. 12th, 2018

Good Times, Bad Art: A one-day music fest at the Pablo for locals, by locals

EVERYBODY’S SHOW. FM Down (above) are the minds behind the Bad Art Music Festival, at which three local bands – The Gossips, Ghosts of the Sun, and FM Down themselves – will be releasing new music.
EVERYONE'S SHOW. FM Down (above) are the minds behind the Bad Art Music Festival, at which three local bands – The Gossips, Ghosts of the Sun, and FM Down themselves – will be releasing new music.

‘We are the musicians, the performers, and the appreciators of the Chippewa Valley music scene. And this is our festival.”

That lines comes near the end of a promo video (see below) for the upcoming Bad Art Music Festival, which will take place in the Jamf Theatre at the Pablo Center Nov. 23. Of course the “bad art” part is tongue-in-cheek: The art taking place that night will in fact be objectively “good.” But the whole point of the one-night fest is for it to be a musical bill stacked with locals, organized by locals, and championed by the local music scene itself. It’s a pretty iconic team-up from some of the best in the region.

The inaugural Bad Art fest comes from the minds of local rock band FM Down, who plan to release a full-length LP at the show, and they’re not the only ones. As circumstance would have it, two other bands are releasing records that night – The Gossips (a new collaborative project between songwriters Nici Peper and Brian Bethke) and Ghosts of the Sun (an alt-metal super group of sorts featuring members of No Loving Place, Mors Mortis Machinato, and Orenda Fugue). The full lineup is a good taste of some of the best music happening in town: FM Down, Gash, D. Janakey, The Gossips, Ghosts of the Sun, and Jim Pullman. And artist Steve Bateman is creating a visual “Bad Art” gallery to display at the show as well.

For Will Wall, a member of FM Down and co-organizer of the fest, the Pablo is a picturesque setting for something like this, and he finds it encouraging that independent events like this that are 100 percent ideated and executed by locals can happen there.

“The best way to utilize the room was to have it be not just our show, but everyone’s show,” Wall said. “We have a tremendous amount of talented local musicians and bands in this area, and we figured it’s time to do something to bring us all together in the new arts center, to deliver something unique.”

The FM Down record, Maybe We Could Get Somewhere If We Could Just Be Somewhere Else, tackles themes that the band has made its bread and butter: Getting older, some social commentary, and the unsettling speed at which the world is changing. It’ll also be their first album pressed to vinyl.

“It’s something we all enjoy doing,” Wall said. “And all of us have this itch that can only be scratched by writing, recording, and performing new music.”

Really, the same can be said for each band featured at the fest.

For Peper’s new project The Gossips, the partnership with Bethke came together magically. Both songwriters in their own right, they’ve each been a big part of the music scene for a long time. And their collaboration came about magically.

“It’s that crazy, swept-off-your-feet, ‘Does anyone know where we’re going?’ kind of feeling,” Peper said. “For example, there’s a point in the album where the song literally created itself – it was raining, I started reading while Brian was playing guitar and it was done in 20 minutes. We were wide-eyed. Spooked.”

The Gossips’ record Flagship is eight tracks of musical bliss and a dreamy collaboration. Or as Peper put it, it’s like “if your life were a large banana leaf and you soaked it in nectar and let it dry, then crushed it up, mixed it with pixie dust and then shook it up in a pop bottle.”

That’s the way the scene works sometimes. Musicians that are on their own path team up, and results can be glorious. That’s the nugget of an idea Wall and the gang are working with for the Bad Art fest: that by doing it together, collaborating, and support each other, amazing things can happen.

It’s no secret that incredible music is constantly being created in basements, rooms, and studios all over town. When you combine that energy with that big beautiful arts center on the river, it just might bring us all together in ways we never knew we could. Like a confluence or something.

The Bad Art Music Festival is Nov. 23 in the Jamf Theatre at the Pablo Center on the Confluence featuring FM Down, Gash, D. Janakey, The Gossips, Ghosts of the Sun, and Jim Pullman. Tickets are $10 and you can purchase them online at FM Down’s Maybe We Could Get Somewhere If We Could Just Be Somewhere Else will be available on most streaming platforms Nov. 16 and the physical release will be at the Nov. 23 show. The Gossips’ Flagship and the new EP by Ghosts of the Sun will be available at the Bad Art fest.

Add a Comment »

Wednesday, Nov. 7th, 2018

Fire up the Big Red Machine for Colbert Thursday Night

Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner.
Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner.

Following a memorable show at this summer’s Eaux Claires and the August release of their critically-acclaimed self-titled record, Big Red Machine – the collaborative project from Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner of The National – will bring their talents to national TV this week. On Thursday, Nov. 8 the duo will play their first ever televised performance on Late Night with Stephen Colbert alongside guests Billy Crystal and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

It follows a busy fall for Vernon, who performed a Bon Iver set at a Tammy Baldwin rally in Madison in October, and another big one last weekend at the Paris iteration of the Pitchfork Music Festival.

So tune in to CBS at 10:30pm/CST to catch the performance. Smart money says it’s at the end of the program.

You can stream the Big Red Machine record at, or buy a physical copy at The Local Store.

Comments 4

Monday, Nov. 5th, 2018


WHEN: Midterm/General Elections will be Tuesday, November 6. Polls are open between 7am and 8pm.

WHERE: Your polling place will vary depending on where you live. To find your polling place, go to, click on “Where Do I Vote?”

WHAT ELSE? The website can also help you find out if you’re registered to vote at your current address, show you a sample ballot for your district, and more. You can even register to vote online.

Add a Comment »

Friday, Nov. 2nd, 2018

New Think Eau Claire Campaign Aims to Recruit Talent

A new community campaign is encouraging prospective residents to think about everything that Eau Claire has to offer – from a high level of civic pride to a low cost of living. The Think Eau Claire campaign is aimed squarely at recruiting workers and their families to relocate to the city. In addition to serving as a tool for employers looking to recruit talented people, Think Eau Claire is designed to tell the Eau Claire story to companies that may be interested in locating here as well.

The campaign is built around a website – – launched this week by the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce and Volume One. The website is anchored by a video that expounds on Eau Claire’s assets – human, natural, economic, and artistic. also features an illustrated and fact-filled guide to the city as a place to live, work, and raise a family; resources to help potential Eau Clairians find jobs and homes; and stories from people who have relocated to the community.

“Eau Claire is not a place to simply live, but a place that will genuinely reward you if you give to it,” said Wesley Escondo, who moved to Eau Claire from Chicago in 2012. “From the beauty of our landscape to the warmth of the residents that live here, Eau Claire has given my family and I a sense of pride in belonging that we didn’t feel in previous towns or cities.”

The Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce decided to create Think Eau Claire after hearing from employers large and small alike that they were facing challenges in attracting employees from outside the Chippewa Valley. In addition to serving as a general recruiting tool for Eau Claire businesses, the website and video can be customized for specific local employers who want to promote the benefits, opportunities, and cultures of their own workplaces. That can even include shooting video and interviews at individual companies to depict the cultures of their organizations. Royal Credit Union is the first local employer to do so, and will soon launch its own individualized version of Think Eau Claire. Businesses interested in customizing the website should contact Scott Rogers at the chamber at (715) 858-0616 or was unveiled this week during the Workforce Solutions Summit at the Pablo Center at the Confluence, an event aimed at attracting and retaining a talented workforce to Wisconsin and the Chippewa Valley. In addition to the primary website, the initiative includes Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn pages as well.

This post was produced through a partnership
with Think Eau Claire ... Learn more!

Add a Comment »

Tuesday, Oct. 30th, 2018

Food & Wine Magazine Runs Deep Profile on Eau Claire

Mona Lisa's on Water Street (Image:
Mona Lisa's on Water Street (Image:

Food & Wine (a nationally syndicated, monthly magazine founded in 1978) published a remarkable profile of Eau Claire's restaurant scene on Oct. 29. The magazine – which is well-known for featuring taste-making recipes, cooking tips, travel information, restaurant reviews, and more – seems to have taken a long look at the city, acknowledging its place in small town America and its "no-bull factory town" roots, while also digging deeper to realize there's more going on than outsiders may realize. They say ...

"... it all happens in flashes, in little pockets and on certain days, or even merely at certain times of the day—this is a city with a population of just 65,000, after all, much of it geographically divorced from the city center, where so many of the most interesting things have happened, lately—the uninitiated visitor might not immediately grasp just exactly what is going on, and when they do, they might be taken by surprise, wondering how a relatively quiet town like Eau Claire could vibe so modern, so cool, and not just college cool (there’s a big state school here), but so much more than that."

Many locals may cringe when a food-n-travel writer describes how Eau Claire "vibes so modern," but hey, it's nice to be appreciated.

As usual, the writeup mentions Justin Vernon and the Eaux Claires music festival, but it seems obvious the writer (David Landsel) really actually spent some time here, and he's discovered more than the buzzworthy (and sometimes backlash-inducing) namechecks we're so used to seeing by now. 

Besides the rivers and trails and Eau Claire's downtown area, the article touches on The Lismore Hotel,  Just Local Food Cooperative, SHIFT Cyclery & Coffee Bar, The Oxbow Hotel, The Pablo Center, and the Downtown Farmers Market.

The writer goes more in depth on specific establishments like The Lakely ("a laidback restaurant elevating Midwestern favorites"), Mona Lisa's ("the city’s most essential restaurant"), Forage (a "space where very good and delicious things are happening"), The Brewing Projekt ("the outfit you will hear the most about"), and The Informalist (an "attractive, modern restaurant"). 

Getting coverage in national-level media is no longer new for Eau Claire, but you can probably count the Food & Wine feature apart from the others. This is a huge magazine and it's a glowing review. Above all else, it's yet another reminder that many, many people are working to make this city a place of which to be proud.

There's a lot of ground left for us to cover, but as mentioned, it's nice to be appreciated along the way.

Comments 4

Thursday, Oct. 25th, 2018

Tut Tut, Looks Like Halloween: North Side resident brings spooky decor to new levels

Some people’s idea of decorating for Halloween involves a few pumpkins, some spiderwebs, and maybe a hanging skeleton.  (Most of us probably stop at the pumpkins, to be honest.) But when Donna Walther prepares for the scariest day of the year, she really brings on the spooky.

When the leaves finally fall on the north side of Eau Claire,Walther's neighbors on Wedgewood Avenue will be treated to the sight of a gold-medal worthy display: an ancient Egyptian Halloween complete with a huge pyramid and an undead, chariot-racing pharoah.

Walther opts to construct elaborate holiday displays once every two years – it takes hundreds of hours to construct the scenes, which have ranged from her first haunted pirate ship in 2008 to a haunted castle in 2012 and a Roarin' '20s theme in 2016.  Walther’s sister-in-law suggested she follow her love of ancient Egypt to this year’s theme, and her son Jared helped her erect the 20-foot pyramid. She’s even made her house into a sort of temple in the spirit of the holiday.

“I love Halloween as themes can be completely different and dressing up is super fun,” Walther said. Trick-or-treaters will have to tread carefully to avoid falling into the haunted Nile river!

Haunted Egypt in progress.
Haunted Egypt in progress.

Add a Comment »

Tuesday, Oct. 23rd, 2018

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

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:


Click for a biggie.
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.

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


Click for a biggie.
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.

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


Click for a biggie.
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.

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


Click for a biggie.
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.

Comments 4