EAU CLAIRE, Wisc. (WEAU) - A proposed arts center and student housing project in downtown Eau Claire has many concerned about how it could affect historic buildings and current businesses.
The Confluence Project of the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire Foundation and the Commonweal Development Corporation still needs to secure funding and finish a design plan, and after that, planners said construction wouldn't begin until at least next summer or fall.
Melissa Kullman has been grooming dogs for the past 12 years and opened her own business, Puckabee's Eco-friendly Grooming, in downtown Eau Claire in Jan.
"This space; I just fell in love with it right away," Kullman said.
But the project could push her out of her current Barstow Street location.
"We could make a larger retail area to Barstow Street if some of those older buildings were removed," UWEC Assistant Chancellor Mike Rindo said.
Extending the project from the river to Barstow Street would force planners to decide whether to remodel or tear down historic downtown buildings.
"There are several factors ... Are those buildings even salvagable?" Rindo said. "How are we remembering our past, honoring our past, but also planning for our future in the community?"
Although some buildings are vacant, groups like the Eau Claire Historic Preservation Foundation are doing what they can to keep the buildings up.
"These are culturally historic buildings. They are our link to the historic Eau Claire business district, and we would like to see them remain," foundation president Janice Wnukowski said.
"I'd like to see as much preserved as possible, but I would love to see more arts for our community," Kullman said.
"If we can all work together, we can have something that the community would benefit greatly from, the campus would greatly from and it'd be a real shot in the arm for downtown Eau Claire," Rindo said.