Downtown businesses to help pay for $1.7m Barstow St. redesign

By: Aaron Dimick
By: Aaron Dimick

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- The future of downtown Eau Claire will be decided this week.

The city council is set to vote on moving forward with the redesign of South Barstow Street.

But it all doesn't come without a big price tag for businesses and taxpayers.

“We reopened last St. Paddy's Day so it's almost up to a one year anniversary for us,” said Benny Haas, the owner of Pizza Plus.

And by the end of summer, Pizza Plus will have some added curb appeal thanks to the Barstow Street reconstruction plan.

But businesses located on Barstow between Lake and Eau Claire streets will have to help pay for the $1.7 million project.

“We knew it was going to be done. The downtown businesses have been effective at voicing their opinions to the city council and the city itself on what's going to be done. But it’s definitely still a pill to swallow,” Haas said.

This is coming from Eau Claire’s special assessment policy.

“When we redo a street with curb and gutter and new street, the property owner pays 40 percent of the cost of improving the front of their property. The taxpayers pay about 60 percent,” said Kerry Kincaid, the Eau Claire City Council President.

Kincaid said the city will use the footage of the storefronts to determine how much businesses will pay.

“The special assessments are paid over 10 years. They are added onto property tax bills. The property owner always has the option to pay up front,” Kincaid said.

She said businesses can ask the city for a hardship deferment.

Plans of the major facelift were unveiled last month.

They call for shutting down the thoroughfare from June to August.

Haas said businesses have been buzzing about the upcoming changes.

“They're probably more worried about what happens when they do tear up the streets, and how their business is going to be affected. But overall it's kind of a big gray cloud,” Haas said.

It's been 42 years since the heart of downtown has gotten a new look.

“The property owner does enjoy some benefit of an improved streetscape and in this case, benches, flowers. Their property goes up in value after the street is improved,” Kincaid said.

There will be a public hearing on the redesign Monday at 7 p.m.

Then Tuesday at 4 p.m., the city council will vote on moving the project forward.

Kincaid said she expects the project to go onto the next phase.

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