Eau Claire to pledge $5 million to Confluence
Posted: October 25, 2013
The Eau Claire City Council this week passed a resolution by a vote of 8-3 to pledge $5 million in proceeds from a Tax Incremental Finance (TIF) district towards development of a $51.2 million performing arts center as part of the $77.2 million Confluence Project proposed for downtown.
"This is a pledge, not a contract. The city may consider participating in site preparation and parking improvements. The city may consider creation of a new tax financing district...but we are not appropriating anything at this time," said Council Member Dave Duax, who added that the resolution includes eight stipulations prior to the city committing funds.
Some of the conditions for the city's contribution include: Funding of at least $25 million appropriated by the State of Wisconsin; Funding of at least $20 million from philanthropy and other private and public sources; $17.5 million to fund the community portion of initial capital construction and at least $2.5 million in additional donor endowment and other funding necessary to maintain operations; and guaranteed tax incremental valuation of $21.5 million for the proposed mixed-use building.
Prior to the vote on the resolution to pledge the $5 million, there was considerable discussion among council members regarding the potential for a binding referendum to be brought before voters this coming spring. A group of citizens may collect the required number of signatures to place a question on the April 1st ballot. However, according to City of Eau Claire Attorney Steve Nick, the resolution passed by the council this week holds precedent over any binding resolution, or direct legislation, that would result from a city-wide vote on the issue.
The vote to allow the city's pledge to be dependent on the outcome of the referendum failed by a vote of 7-4.
Council member Kathy Mitchell, who spoke in favor of the resolution to pledge funding for the Confluence Project, said she has received more positive feedback than negative opinions from constitutents.
"This resolution moves this project forward. It says to the state: "We're in. Are you? And I hope their answer is yes," said Mitchell.
Likewise, Council member Eric Larsen said the $5 million pledge is small in comparison to the amount that needs to be raised from other funding sources.
"The money that we're pledging is a small part of the funds that will need to come from private donations. That speaks much more loudly to me about what support there will be from the community," he said.
The proposed Confluence Project, which would be located at the confluence of the Chippewa and Eau Claire Rivers, would consist of a shared arts center, a mixed-use building for student housing and commercial retail/restaurant space, structured parking, a public park and open space with completion of a pedestrian trail.TBL