The “radically rising costs” of constructing a mixed-use transit building in downtown Eau Claire has led the Eau Claire City Council to commit more taxpayer dollars to the project.
The city council voted March 23 to increase the city’s share of the project to about $9.55 million from the originally planned $1.25 million. Originally the city was to build the bus transfer center on the ground floor and a parking floor above, while a private developer would add an extra level of parking on top of that as well as three floors apartments below the market price. . The new transit center had been in the planning stages for years, and in 2018 the city received a $5 million federal grant for the project. Construction finally began last September on the 400 block of South Farwell Street.
However, negotiations with a private developer broke down last year, and a subsequent developer who negotiated with the city — Impact Seven of Rice Lake — told officials the city would need to invest more in the project to make it viable.
We’re just faced with dramatically increased costs and the challenge… for a developer to step into a project that was already in progress.
HEAD OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, VILLE D’EAU CLAIRE
The reason, said Aaron White, director of economic development for Eau Claire, is rising construction costs. “We’re just faced with dramatically increased costs and the challenge…for a developer to step into a project that was already underway,” he said.
According to the option chosen by the city council, the city will now be responsible not only for the cost of the bus center itself, but also for the two levels of parking above and a concrete slab above, which will support apartment levels.
Now that the city council has pledged to pay more of the development cost, finalizing a deal with Impact Seven should happen fairly quickly, White added.
So where will the additional funding come from? There are several possibilities: Some may come from the city’s capital improvement plan – a rolling five-year plan for the city’s infrastructure needs. It could also come from a special additional tax funding district that includes the transit center site.
Ultimately, the funding decision will rest with the future city council (several members of which were elected on April 5) and new city manager Stephanie Hirsch, White said.