Monday, Nov. 5th, 2018

TUESDAY! VOTE! TUESDAY!

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 myvote.wi.gov, 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.

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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 – ThinkEauClaire.com – 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. ThinkEauClaire.com 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 rogers@eauclairechamber.org.

ThinkEauClaire.com 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!

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Tuesday, Oct. 30th, 2018

Food & Wine Magazine Runs Deep Profile on Eau Claire

Mona Lisa's on Water Street (Image: VisitEauClaire.com)
Mona Lisa's on Water Street (Image: VisitEauClaire.com)

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.

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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.

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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:

COMMONWEAL DEVELOPMENT

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.

MERGE URBAN DEVELOPMENT GROUP

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.

PABLO PROPERTIES

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.

MONARCH VENTURES

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.

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Country Jam Reveals 2019 Lineup

In 2019, Country Jam is bringing Keith Urban,Maren Morris, and Toby Keith.
In 2019, Country Jam is bringing Keith Urban,Maren Morris, and Toby Keith.

We haven’t quite slipped into winter’s chilly grasp yet here in Wisconsin, but that doesn’t mean we can’t already look forward to next summer. And, c’mon, what better way to do that than by daydreaming of Country Jam, who just announced some huge headliners for their 30th anniversary festival happening July 18-20, 2019. 

Among the big names announced thus far are the likes of Keith Urban, Toby Keith, Jake Owen, and Maren Morris (who just went platinum for her songs “I Could Use a Love Song” and “80s Mercedes” – and double-platinum for her breakout hit “My Church”). Rounding out the lineup are hitmakers like Sara Evans, Dylan Scott, High Valley, Locash, and Sawyer Brown. 

The fest plans to announce more acts in the coming months, but tickets are on sale now. Three-day general admission tickets run for $125, and the super fan VIP package for $250, with camping and reserved seating available for purchase as well.

Get the full rundown over at countryjamwi.com

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Friday, Oct. 19th, 2018

Victory Tour: Sculpture Tour Eau Claire announces People's Choice

"Salmon Runner"

Sculpture Tour Eau Claire, the organization responsible for the proliferation of sculptures decorating downtown, announced the winners of the 2018 People’s Choice award Friday. “Salmon Runner,” a brushed aluminum bear fishing for supper on the corner of Barstow and Main Streets, by Heather Wall, was the crowd favorite of the season. The piece will remain in its current location through mid-April, when the tour is replaced with next year’s pieces.  Sculpture Tour Eau Claire will purchase the piece and give it to the City of Eau Claire for permanent installation. Minneapolis artist Kimber Fiebiger took the prize for Best of Show in the Bronze category for the swingin’ statue of three eggs playing jazz.  The sculpture, “Jam ‘n’ Eggs” is currently on display at the corner of Barstow and Gibson. Best of Show for Other Materials went to “Yosemite,” an abstract collaboration between two Minnesota high school teachers.For more information about Sculpture Tour Eau Claire, visit www.sculpturetour.org.

"Jam ‘n’ Eggs"
"Jam ‘n’ Eggs"
"Yosemite"
"Yosemite"

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Friday, Oct. 5th, 2018

Developers Have Big Plans for Vacant Downtown Lots (Including a New Children’s Museum)

"Block 7" in downtown Eau Claire, with the "liner building" site in the background near the new parking garage.

Four developers have stepped forward with proposals for a pair of downtown Eau Claire lots that have remained undeveloped as new apartments, office buildings, and a parking ramp have risen around them. Three of the four plans, which were announced by the City of Eau Claire on Friday, include a new building for the Children’s Museum of Eau Claire.

The two vacant properties are along North Barstow Street between Riverfront Terrace and Wisconsin Streets. The larger of the two – known as Block 7 or the Livery lot – is now a temporary parking lot. The other, generally referred to as the “liner” site, is in front of the downtown parking ramp where the post office formerly stood.

According to the city, the developers who submitted proposals for both sites are Commonweal Development Corp.; Pablo Properties; and Merge Urban Development Group. Hoeft Builders, Inc., on behalf of one of their clients, submitted a proposal for the Liner Site.

The three multi-site proposed projects estimate a construction cost range of over $30 million in investment.

The city last issued a formal request for proposals for the sites in 2015, but only received one plan. Earlier this year, in response to renewed inquiries from developers, the city set a Sept. 28 deadline for new ideas. Developers responded with what Scott Allen, the city’s community development director, termed “four very strong proposals.” The Redevelopment Authority, the city-affiliated entity that owns the properties, may discuss the proposals as early as their Wednesday, Oct. 17, meeting.

Specifics of the four plans were not yet made available by the city.

The Children’s Museum of Eau Claire, 220 S. Barstow St., has seen rapid growth in attendance and membership in recent years, which has led it to explore relocation. According to a statement from the museum, “The Children’s Museum board of directors has directed our organization to explore partnership opportunities and relocating to the Block 7 Redevelopment Site. This opportunity has us excited as we have conversations with potential partners that will allow our mission to best serve the current and future needs of our community. This direction also includes pursuing negotiations with the selected developer on design, cost, and ownership of museum property.”

The current museum is about 15,000 square feet, but the hope is to expand it to about 21,000 square feet, said Executive Director Michael McHorney. A new location would also allow the museum to include the outdoors and green space in its programs. The museum hasn’t yet begun fundraising for a potential move, McHorney said.

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Thursday, Oct. 4th, 2018

5 Rustic Wisconsin Roads to Explore for Autumnal Awesomeness

1. RUSTIC ROAD 6 (CHIPPEWA CO.)

Over the past 45 years, 120 particularly beautiful Wisconsin country roads have been officially designated Rustic Roads by the state Department of Transportation. One of the first of these is Rustic Road 6 in northeastern Chippewa County. Otherwise known as County Road E, the road runs from the junction of Highway 64 (west of Cornell) north 13.3 miles to the Rusk County line. According to the DOT’s Rustic Roads guidebook, the road follows part of the old Flambeau Trail, which was used by the region’s earliest travelers, and winds its way through county forests and the Ice Age National Scientific Reserve.

2. RUSTIC ROAD 45 (EAU CLAIRE CO.)

The only officially designated Rustic Road in Eau Claire County, this 2.7-mile stretch of gravel is otherwise known as Goat Ranch Road, which runs between Coon Fork County Park and County Highway H. Keep your eyes peeled for deer and other wildlife as you navigate your way through the shady depths of the Eau Claire County Forest.

3. RUSTIC ROAD 89 (DUNN CO.)

Beginning at the edge of the city of Menomonie, Rustic Road 89 follows 410th and 420th streets between County Highway P and 370th Avenue. The 4.7-mile paved route traverses the bluffs and runs parallel to the Red Cedar Trail and the Red Cedar River just to the east. Along the road, stop to see the Devil’s Punchbowl, an amazing, water-carved canyon that you can explore on foot. (Bring sturdy footwear!)

4. RUSTIC ROAD 107 (DUNN CO.)

About 14 miles south of Menomonie in the town of Peru is Rustic Road 107, a 6.7-mile paved and gravel route that meanders along 160th Avenue, 650th Street, and 50th Avenue between County Highway O and County Highway M. According to the guidebook, this route features “wooded areas with canopies over the road that open up to meadows and picturesque views,” including plenty of wetlands. The road follows the Chippewa River and is twice crossed by the Chippewa River State Trail. 

5. RUSTIC ROAD 76 (CLARK CO.)

Expect to see plenty of wild creatures – from white-tailed deer to sandhill cranes – as you zigzag through the Clark County Forest near Neillsville. This route follows parts of Columbia Avenue, Middle Road, Fisher Avenue, Sand Road, and Bruce Mound Avenue between U.S. Highway 10 and County Highway B. According to the guidebook, you’ll see an abandoned trestle bridge over Wedges Creek and the Lone Grave Marker – “the last remaining evidence of the community of Columbia, which dates back to the 1880s.”

To learn more about these and other Rustic Roads around the state, visit wisconsindot.gov/rusticroads

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Wednesday, Oct. 3rd, 2018

Downtown Gift Shop Raggedy Man Wins Jump-Start Business Competition

Matt Pabich, owner of Raggedy Man Goods & Gifts
Matt Pabich, owner of Raggedy Man Goods & Gifts

A downtown Eau Claire gift shop featuring a wide range of affordable gifts and household items is the grand-prize winner of the 2018 Jump-Start Downtown Business Competition. Matt Pabich, owner of Raggedy Man Goods & Gifts, received the Jim Mishefske Award at an awards luncheon on Tuesday, Oct. 2. The grand prize includes $5,000 in start-up capital (courtesy of Royal Credit Union), $750 in advertising credit from the Leader-Telegram, and a brand development strategy session with JB Systems. Raggedy Man opened in April at 401 S. Barstow St.

The Jump-Start competition’s Honorable Mention award went to Tabatha Voss, proprietor of The Broom & Crow, 106 E. Grand Ave., which specializes in Pagan and New Age books, gifts, and apothecary items. The Honorable Mention includes $2,500 in start-up capital (thanks to WESTconsin Credit Union, Market & Johnson, Mayo Clinic Health System, Weld Riley, and Xcel Energy) plus a $500 credit with SpinVision, which provides virtual tours.

Finally, the Innovative Idea Award, which includes a $1,000 cash award sponsored by Jamf, went to Bibi Krumenauer for Star Cup, a bubble tea shop currently inside Oakwood Mall that is expected to expand to downtown Eau Claire in the near future.

The Jump-Start awards, now in their 14th year, are a program of Downtown Eau Claire Inc., a nonprofit organization that works to promote business, housing, and culture in downtown Eau Claire.

Five businesses applied to this year’s competition, and all of them will receive a media package from DECI as well as eligibility for the Entrepreneurial Training Program offered by the Small Business Development Center. “We are excited to be able to offer more to applicants than ever before and, thanks to our sponsors, award more cash since 2005!” said Ray French, business assistance specialist with DECI.

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