Rising Above

In 2021, keeping tabs on all the downtown Eau Claire projects has been challenging. Here’s a handy guide.

Tom Giffey, Nick Meyer |

Right now, Eau Claire is having somewhat of a moment in development. A variety of residential and commercial structures are going up throughout the city (not an entirely uncommon sight), but nowhere is the density of new construction more apparent than downtown. Fenced off blocks and project areas have popped up this summer from one end of our city’s core to the other. Old buildings are seeing upgrades, others are coming down entirely, and empty lots are giving rise to new infill development – all of which will play host to more residents, businesses, and community organizations.

Scroll down for a list of 13 downtown projects

It’s a burst of energy we haven’t seen since 2015, when multiple cranes dotted the skyline for projects like the Lismore Hotel, Confluence Project, the North Barstow Parking Ramp, and more. Back then, it all felt like an exciting tipping point. And it was. Years of groundwork were finally paying off as substantial private and public investments into the heart of our community were starting to look more viable.

Today, between multi-story apartment buildings, new commercial structures, and renovated public facilities, millions more dollars are being invested in Eau Claire’s central neighborhood. It’s momentum brought forward from the last decade of modest success, mixed with a bit of excess energy pent-up from the pandemic pause of 2020. Regardless, in downtown Eau Claire today, the progress is palpable.

While our population is growing the second fastest in the state behind only Madison, we can at least be thankful that it’s not all sprawl. City-center development and density is vital, and proof that our community is growing economically and culturally as well. Even so, often these kinds of downtown projects are looked upon by some with skepticism. And sometimes for good reason. Concerns over housing affordability, commercial vacancies, public investment, or in some cases even basic density issues are topics that can be worthy of discerning discussion. Not to even mention the p-word*.

While we won’t try and sort that all out here today, we did want to provide a quick and handy guide to just what all is going on inside those fences and behind the closed sidewalks all over downtown this season. And as always, feel free to poke around for more details on most of these projects and others – there’s always something new to learn about your community. — Nick Meyer

1 Royal Credit Union

317 N. Barstow St.
Est. completion date: Spring 2022

The Eau Claire-based credit union broke ground for a new office in August on the former site of a Direct Store gas station and John’s Sewing Center. Retail operations from RCU’s branch at 1512 Bellinger St. will relocate to the new site.

2 Block 7

200 Block N. Barstow St.
Est. completion date: Unknown

Block 7 has been “temporary” parking lot for years. A number of commercial and residential proposals for the 1.6-acre parcel have been made, but nothing has stuck. However, in September, the city’s Redevelopment Authority is expected to consider an as-yet-unveiled plan from a private developer.

3 Children’s Museum of Eau Claire

100 block N. Barstow St.
Est. completion date: 2022

Fences are up and ground will be broken soon on the new two-story, 23,000-square-foot museum, which will feature innovative timber construction and a “green” roof. It will replace the original museum on South Barstow Street, which closed last year (see number 9).

4 Second Liner Site Development

100 block N. Barstow St.
Est. completion date: Unknown

A proposal by Monarch Ventures for a building next to the future Children’s Museum fell through, but the city expects a new private plan to come forward soon. (The so-called “liner site” is next to the North Barstow parking ramp, on the spot where the Eau Claire post office was once located.)

5 Andante

100 N. Farwell St.
Est. completion date: Summer 2022

Merge Urban Development Group is constructing this five-story building along the Eau Claire River. It will feature ground-level commercial space and 76 apartments on its upper floors, including 28 fully furnished studios.

6 L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library

400 Eau Claire St.
Est. completion date: Fall 2022

The library relocated to a temporary site on Mall Drive this spring to allow for $18.5 million in renovations, including mechanical system upgrades and the addition of a third floor to the 45-year-old building.

7 Barstow Commons

131 S. Barstow St.
Est. completion date: Summer 2022

The upper four floors of the six-story building housing US Bank are being converted into 28 residential units. Pablo Group says it is working to preserve Art Deco elements of the historic building. The bank and other offices will remain on the lower two floors.

8 The Grand

204 E. Grand Ave.
Est. completion date: December 2021

This six-story structure was built in 1930 and most recently housed a Wells Fargo bank. The top four floors are being converted into 36 apartments. Owner JCap Real Estate will lease the first two stories to commercial tenants and wants to create a rooftop restaurant and bar, though the latter won’t happen until later in 2022.

9 Tokyo Restaurant

220 S. Barstow St.
Est. completion date: Late 2021/early 2022

Entrepreneur Charlee Markquart purchased the former Children’s Museum of Eau Claire building in February with plans to remodel it into a new home for Tokyo Restaurant.

10 Teriyaki Madness

420 S. Barstow St.
Est. completion date: Fall 2022

Extensive exterior and interior work are ongoing to transform this former store into a restaurant.

11 New Transit Center

400 block S. Farwell St.
Est. completion date: Late 2022

Utility work has started on a long-awaited project to replace the current center with a multistory public-private building that will include a transit center, parking, and eventually housing.

12 Temporary Eau Claire Transit Center

500 block S. Farwell St.
Est. completion date: Fall 2021

Temporary shelters will soon be installed on a portion of a city parking lot kitty-corner from the existing Transit Center.

13 Wilson Square

700 block S. Farwell St.
Est. completion date: Summer, fall 2022

JCap Real Estate is constructing two four-story apartment buildings next to Wilson Park: a 40-unit building, which will open June 1, 2022, and a 75-unit building, to be ready by that fall.


— Project listings compiled by Tom Giffey.