This week's decision by the City of Eau Claire Redevelopment Authority to approve a new downtown development agreement with a different group could be just the move needed to push the revitalization efforts forward in the North Barstow district. On the other hand, the deal that was likely approved by the Eau Claire City Council yesterday could also produce more of the same inactivity that the city has experienced over the past year. (The city council voted on the development agreement Thursday in a special session that took place after TBL's Wednesday deadline).
Riverfront Partners III, LLC, is the group formed by Dan Clumpner and Stuart Schaefer of Commonweal Development and Dan Market of Market & Johnson. The partnership was originally established two years ago when the city first solicited development proposals for the two-block area in the central business district. However, soon after Geoff Moeding partnered with Mike Lander to form Phoenix Parkside, LLC, the Riverfront group pulled out of the discussions. At the time, many area developers told me that the deal to reinvigorate the blighted downtown property was not financially feasible based on the terms and conditions that the city required.
For the last month, city officials needed to find another development group that could come up with the financing in a short period of time and get the project back on track. Even though the city was supposed to deal exclusively with Phoenix Parkside, I am sure there were some phone calls made between city hall and the local development community to find other options.
If the deal was approved by the city council on Thur., Nov. 1st, Riverfront Partners III, LLC, will be bound by the same terms that Lander and Moeding had been working with for the past year. What has changed in the last two years that gives any assurances that Clumpner, Schaefer and Market will be able to produce the $9.7 million in increased property value by 2010 as required by the city?
Although the local housing market has some impact on the ability for lenders to provide financing for major initiatives, I doubt the struggles in the housing industry had much of an impact on Lander and Moeding's ability to access the financing necessary for them to proceed with the downtown project. Frankly, if a developer like Lander who has a proven track record to revitalize other downtown business districts cannot attract the $8 to $10 million to start a project, then there is more to the story.
Now it is up to Riverfront Partners III, LLC, to rescue the project. I think it could be harder to do than many people think.