Council Inks Confluence Agreement

development deal paves way for arts center

Tom Giffey

Get the fancy silver shovels ready: The Eau Claire City Council has signed, sealed, and delivered a $5 million deal with a developer to help fund a downtown performing arts center. The 78-page agreement between the city and Haymarket Concepts passed on a unanimous 11-0 vote Nov. 10, ensuring that the arts center will receive city funding via a special tax district.

Groundbreaking for the $40 million project is expected in the summer, with completion anticipated in early 2018, says Dan Clumpner of Commonweal Development, one of the partners in the project. “The real significance is this transformation of the community to a can-do and will-do culture,” he said. “We’re seeing people who once were opposed to the project or didn’t understand it joining in the effort and contributing. It’s contagious. It’s just an incredible feeling of community energy.”

“We’re seeing people who once were opposed to the project or didn’t understand it joining in the effort and contributing. It’s contagious. It’s just an incredible feeling of community energy.” – Dan Clumpner of Commonweal Development on the momentum of the Confluence Project

Several City Council members who had been skeptical of public funding for the project in the past said they were won over by the financial protections for the city contained in the agreement. “Tonight we have an ownership and operating model that does not fall upon the city,” said Councilwoman Monica Lewis, according to the Leader-Telegram. “This agreement not only sets limits but has safeguards in front of the taxpayers’ dollars.”

According to the newspaper, “In case of operating losses, the agreement requires that the arts center would first have to drain several reserve funds before going to the city as a last resort to pay a maximum of $1 million.”

The $5 million in tax incremental financing will cover just part of the public-private arts center’s estimated $40 million cost. Other funding will include $15 million from the state, $3.5 million from Eau Claire County, about $3 million in new market tax credits, and $13.5 million in private donations.

Philanthropic pledges recently passed $10 million, and fundraisers are well on their way to gathering another $500,000 by the end of December to secure an additional $1 million challenge grant from an anonymous donor.

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