Confluence questions: Who would own the buildings?

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU)- It’s a vote less than a week away, but ahead of the April 1st election major ownership questions remain for Eau Claire’s Confluence Project.

Depending on where you live, on the April ballot, voters will need to answer one or two questions.

If you live in the county you'll be asked whether the county should put $3.5 million toward the project.

If you live in the City of Eau Claire, you'll be asked if you support creating a new city ordinance. That ordinance would require a referendum anytime the city contributes more than $1 million to a building project related to the arts.

If the city's April 1st referendum passes, it means there could be a second referendum on the Confluence Project itself.

Wednesday a group of volunteers selected by the City Council to direct the future of the Confluence Project held its last meeting ahead of the April 1st election.

The group known as the Confluence Project Task Force had its final meeting late Wednesday afternoon.

Following that meeting we asked members of the Task Force who would own the buildings if the project moves forward.

In response to that question Eau Claire City Manager Russ Van Gompel replied, “That's still up for debate. We will be working with the State of Wisconsin and have to meet their needs. That part is still being worked on.”

When it comes to ownership for the buildings at the center of the Confluence Project, nothing is concrete.

The City's Finance manager says there are many options out there but initial plans break down like this.

The Community Arts Center would likely have split ownership between UW-Eau Claire and a non-profit corporation.

A private developer would own the condos marketed to UW-Eau Claire students. The final piece in the project, the Mixed Use Building with retail space below the condos, would also be owned by a private developer.

The future of those building projects depends on what happens on April 1st when people in the county and city head to the polls.

For UW-Eau Claire, the April ballot will ultimately decide whether or not it can be a partner in the project.

“If the community supports an Arts Center at the Confluence then the university will be able to say ‘yes’ we will proceed with our plans. If the community says ‘no’ we don't support it than the university needs to look at a different spot to meet its needs somewhere on campus,” UW- Eau Claire assistant chancellor for facilities and university relations Mike Rindo said.

Rindo says the university is hoping for the community's support for the Confluence Project come April 1st. He says in order for the university to get state money for the buildings from the UW-System Board of Regents, the Regents must know with certainty that the community supports the Confluence Project.

“If the vote is to hold a referendum on the Confluence Project ultimately the university would be in a position where it would be very difficult to be a partner in an arts project because of the timeline,” Rindo explained.

Earlier this year, a group of volunteers successfully got enough signatures on a petition to hold a referendum. That referendum will decide whether voters have to approve the city spending millions of dollars on an arts center in the future, as opposed to City Council members signing off on the project.

We'll have complete results of the election, and reaction next Tuesday night on WEAU 13 News at 10.

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