Confluence Performing Arts Center Design Unveiling
Posted: February 12, 2016
When I attended the unveiling this week of the design plans for the Confluence Performing Arts Center that was held in the lobby of the State Theatre downtown, I was pleased to see how many area business leaders took time out of their day to also attend the event. A number of volunteers and officials involved with the Confluence Project spoke at the news conference, including Gerald Jacobson, president of Northwestern Bank and president of the non-profit group that will own and operate the facility.
According to Jacobson, there is still a lot of work to do, but many of the initial hurdles have been overcome over the past four years. There is the issue of raising more money to assist with construction of the arts center. Originally, the cost estimate to build the facility was $51 million. But after Governor Walker elected to only include a $15 million non-state grant for the project, instead of the $25 million that was requested, the arts center had to be modified.
The new cost is estimate is $45 million, which is about $5 million more than previously thought. This means that another $2 million needs to be raised from private individuals and businesses. There are also meetings scheduled with area contractors who may wish to donate some in-kind products and/or services to assist with the project.
The one speaker who stood out to me was UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt. I have said it before: This guy is the Chippewa Valley's biggest cheerleader. In fact, he stated that when Mike Rindo went to visit Schmidt while still on the job at Winona State University, he said he was so blown away by the concept to collaboratively build the Confluence Performing Arts Center that it became one of the main reasons he and his family moved to Eau Claire to accept the position of chancellor at UW-Eau Claire.
There are a lot of things to like about both the Confluence Arts Center and the nearby Haymarket Landing, a six-story complex that will feature one floor of retail/restaurant space with five stories of apartments above.
But after attending the news conference this week, I was reminded that not everyone is enamored with the Confluence Project. There are those who say that this building is destined for failure. Others are unsure whether officials can raise the additional funds for the project.
However, after seeing all of the enthusiasm in the lobby of the State Theatre this week, I have no doubt that the project will come to fruition.