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I recently received a E mail from Community Activist Penny Von Haden Here is what she wrote about the Confluence Project:

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Do you live in the city of Eau Claire?
Do you live in Eau Claire County?
Then, you will be interested in reading the following information.

Our City Council needs to hear all sides of the Confluence Project being proposed by the "stakeholders"  -
Market and Johnson, Commonweal Corporation, and the UWEC Foundation.

City taxpayers need to know the Confluence "stakeholders" are asking the City Council to have the city
taxpayers pay for $10 million or more dollars for site improvements to: 

 pay for the demolition of the buildings
 pay for raising the land up out of the flood plain
 pay for the infrastructure
 pay for the underground parking facility and the maintenance of
 pay for an outdoor public plaza
 pay for the pedestrian walk bridge across the Eau Claire River - the project "must have"

One part of the proposed project is a UWEC dormitory, 6 stories tall, to be constructed in the first
block - considered to be prime real estate - off the Eau Claire River.

You may or may not know that the UWEC representative stated that the dorm could be built elsewhere.

Other information: The Confluence "stakeholders" are asking the Eau Claire County Board to have the
county taxpayers pay for an additional $5 million dollars.

PENNY VON HADEN

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Plus, From  WAYNE MAREK:

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QUESTION: What, if any, are concerns you have about the proposal?

The lack of communication and sharing of information from the major stakeholders in the project has been concerning. Details regarding fees and scheduling, which will directly impact the future sustainability of the community arts groups, are sketchy at best. Building a facility for the sake of bringing in touring shows a few times a year is risky- if the public baulks at the higher ticket prices associated with these shows it will rest on revenue from the community arts groups to support it and keep it profitable. This would result in higher rental fees and ticket surcharges, driving ticket prices higher for community arts events. This vicious circle could actually be the demise of some community groups if they're priced out of the facility or their bottom line is threatened because their ticket prices are not supported by the public.

Downtown Eau Claire is an exciting place right now and it would be great to see continued development in the area. However given the parking and traffic generated by the project it would seem that this location might not be ideal. Since the University is requiring it to be near campus, other sites are not being explored, and I'm not sure if there's wide community support for dropping a student housing complex downtown and removing historic buildings. Once the excitement of the possibility of a shiny new arts center wears off I hope the community can come together and make a commitment to support such a facility for the long haul. At the end of the day, if the facility were to go under it could take arts groups with it, resulting in less arts programming than when we started.     

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Now here is my reply.

I have given conditional support to the Confluence Project and the Visionary Leaders of both Public and Private Sector who have worked hard on making this proposal. I think the questions that Penny and many of our WAYY listeners have raised about its cost and tax ramifications are good ones. I think they will be flushed out before any final approval is ever granted.  Objections based on tearing down old buildings are objections I do not agree with.  I came to Eau Claire in 1976 and have waited since then for projects like Phoenix Park now the Confluence Project to revitalize our downtown.  We need visionary thinking for our community to move forward.  Banbury Place….Phoenix Park…RCU Building…The Mayo Complex...The Law Enforcement Center and now a new location for the YMCA and this Confluence Project are part of progress  I endorse.  The Dorm could be built elsewhere but I see nothing wrong with the downtown location.  Downtown will never again be a Retail Hub but abandoning it to decay isn’t either.  A Convention Center would be better near the Interstate but the Confluence Project belongs downtown and I look forward to all the objections being answered in due time and then it will get my complete endorsement instead of just a qualified one.

Submitted By   Marty Green  WAYY  News/Talk Contributor.  12/3/2012

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