Former tenants of Barstow St. building find new homes as 'Confluence' demolition begins

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Years of planning are finally leading to action, even without a future project guaranteed.

Crews have been tearing down buildings in downtown Eau Claire to make way for the proposed Confluence Project.

The proposed community art center is still waiting for a funding approval by the U. W. regents, but the process is finally visible, with part of the building torn down.

With short notice, four businesses along Eau Claire’s Barstow Street were told to leave their storefronts and find a new home.

John Hagenbart, owner of Upland Distributing says because it's not a retail shop, his business didn't suffer, but moving everything to Jeffers Road was both costly and challenging.

“The most difficult part was finding space that was gonna be suitable for what we needed,” Hagenbart said.

“The expense of moving was quite tremendous.” “It would have been nice to have a little more time to have had the opportunity.”

Demolition of the Barstow Street building began this week.

“One of the big things we're doing is separating the materials, they've got piles of bricks and separating the steel for recycle as they go,” project manager Kevin Dallas with Market and Johnson said.

The city and county of Eau Claire have voted to contribute tax dollars to the proposed arts center, but construction will have to wait until after a U.W. Regents meeting to decide a contribution from the state.

“I've always been conflicted because we knew that eventually we were going to have to move from there, but again, I hope everything works out there and turns out well.

Commonweal Development said if the project doesn't pass, the space will still be prepared for redevelopment in the future.

“The multi-use building is looking to go first. The performing arts center still has a lot of hurdles to get through so that site will be leveled filled and wait,” Dallas said.

“There's been so much talk that you hear a lot from passersby and people standing on the sidewalk. It's excited to see it get started.

Puckabee's Eco-Friendly grooming moved from the building to Barstow and Lake Streets. She said it's been a positive change, finding new customers.

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