Prime for Development in 2011
I often get asked what I think will happen in the local economy in the coming year. So I thought this would be the appropriate time to make some educated guesses as to what parts of the Chippewa Valley may be prime for development in 2011.
In Eau Claire, I can envision most of the future development to occur along the Highway 53 Freeway. In fact, I know of at least two hotel projects that are in the discussion stages at two different intersections. However, neither project is expected to begin until this fall at the earliest.
There are other parts of Eau Claire that should realize some significant private sector investment. The downtown area continues to show gains and the area in and around Oakwood Mall may see some growth. But, with the outdated strip malls along London Road showing their age, portions of the city's south side will remain vacant throughout the foreseeable future.
On the bright side, Nestle will continue to expand its two manufacturing plants - even though company officials will not admit it to the media.
With the exception of Curt Manufacturing, the City of Altoona relies on the Highway 53 intersection at the River Prairie exit for any potential commercial development. Although there have been preliminary discussions with a number of possible users, nothing has come to fruition and the quadrant remains a large pasture.
The City of Chippewa Falls lost out on a big opportunity when Cray Inc. decided to hold off on developing a large parcel near Seymour Cray Boulevard. Even though the area reports higher traffic counts, it will be some time before retailers build near the Highway 29 interchange.
In Menomonie, businesses in the industrial parks and companies like 3M and ConAgra are usually expanding and upgrading their facilities. But no new companies have been attracted to the city in some time. So, until that happens, there won't be much to report.
Lastly, the Village of Lake Hallie should continue to build on its existing retail and commercial base along Commercial Boulevard. But until large users (like Menards) get built, most of the growth will be smaller, retail tenants in existing strip centers.
All in all, land along the Highway 53 Freeway shows the most promise in 2011. Hopefully, any new development along the bypasss is a precursor to the commercial development boon that occurrred in the Chippewa Valley prior to the recession.