NEW INFORMATION: City council hears proposal to add new parking ramp to downtown Eau Claire

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- It would be a change to Eau Claire's downtown look and accessibility. On Monday, city council members heard from the public and discussed the idea of a parking ramp in Eau Claire's North Barstow district.

City Engineer David Solberg says council has already included the ramp in a vote last summer on re-developing the area but no final decisions on the specifics of the ramp have been made.

"They've approved it in principle when they adopted the amendment last summer, but we still need council approval to go forward with the design and bidding documents and awarding of the ramp," Solberg said.

Two designs were presented on Monday, which show the ramp having four levels.

It would be built where the Barstow St. Post Office currently sits.

Plans call for the Post Office to be torn down and re-located.

The first design would cost about $10 million dollars. The second would cost about $10.6 million dollars. The higher cost of the second design comes from more materials used to help make the building blend in.

"We wanted an aesthetic treatment so it complements the adjacent buildings and with more surface area that adds to the additional cost of it," Solberg said.

As for how that cost will be paid, Eau Claire City Manager Russ Van Gompel says that is still being discussed.

"It could be partially paid for through our tax increment financing district, it could also be paid for by parking utilities and parking revenues, so we have to look at all those options yet," Van Gompel said.

The ramp stems from a development agreement laid out with RCU and JAMF Software obligating the city to provide 510 parking spaces within an 800 foot radius of RCU.

The current ramp downtown would be too far away to meet those requirements.

Earlier on Monday, a group called Voters with Facts laid out three reasons in an e-mail why the ramp should not be built, saying the ramp is not needed unless the Confluence Project goes through, it places the farmers market in jeopardy and there is no funding mechanism for the project.

We asked City Manager Russ Van Gompel if the farmers market would need to move out. He says that would not happen.

"This actually compliments it; Phoenix Park was designed with an urban setting, we knew when we put in Phoenix Park we would have to provide parking and this structure helps to do that," Solberg added.

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- City of Eau Claire engineering staff is about to present two proposals for a downtown parking ramp to the city council.

The ramp, which is called the North Barstow Parking Structure, would go on the site of the existing U.S. Post Office on North Barstow Street, and a nearby parking lot. The proposal calls for the Post Office to be relocated, and for the building to be torn down. The site is between the RCU Corporate Center, the JAMF Software Riverfront Building, a residential building, and a building planned to face North Barstow. Both options call for a four-floor ramp, with 520 parking spaces. Each proposal is believed to cost nearly $10,000,000. One of the options covers more land than the other, and is estimated to cost nearly $600,000 more.

The goal is to start construction in March 2015, and have the ramp finished in March 2016. The city council meeting on Monday is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

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