Ideas unveiled for future public plaza

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU)- We're getting the first idea of future plans at a public plaza at the center of the Confluence Project.

The Haymarket Plaza serves as a parking lot along the banks of the Eau Claire and Chippewa Rivers right now. But thanks to the work of more than 70 planners it will be transformed to a multi-use space in the future.

Tuesday night the Eau Claire City Manager and planners from the West Central Regional Planning Commission unveiled the results of placemaking workshops.

Placemaking is a way of planning where the community is able to provide input on what they think would be the best use of a certain space.

Right now the plans for the Haymarket Plaza are just general ideas of what people would like to see. But turning those ideas into a reality will take plenty of planning in the future.

What serves as a parking lot at the corner of Graham Ave. and Eau Claire St. could become the central gateway to the future of downtown Eau Claire.

“It’s been in the cities plans and they have done studies for over a decade. So the city has stated for a long time that there would be some type of plaza there with a river walk,” West Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission Senior Planner Chris Straight said.

Straight and the WCWRPC were put in charge of helping the city gather community input for the future design of the plaza.

“What we were really looking for is a vision into what this area could be and having the placemaking exercise was really a way to get the public involved in providing input,” city manager Russ Van Gompel said.

After years of ideas and plans that got pushed to the side the city manager says the ideas gathered from the community input will help the city move forward with planning a space to best serve everyone’s needs.

“Some of the highlights are the connections to the river but also the opportunity for the site to act as a hub for the bicycle and pedestrian traffic in the downtown area,” Straight explained.

Main ideas for planning the park include a community gathering place, a night time park to enjoy the river after sunset and areas to sit and relax or be active.

“People wanted somewhere to enjoy the sunset or the lights on the river or to enjoy the river after the sun goes down,” Straight added.

The Eau Claire city manager says that the project will move forward regardless of whether or not the Confluence Project becomes a reality.

Both the city manager and Eau Claire city council president Kerry Kincaid say the earliest construction could begin on the project is fall of 2015.

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