New building in Railroad City parking lot may take out local business patios

Galloway Grille patio
Galloway Grille patio(weau)
Published: Aug. 2, 2020 at 7:55 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Downtown Eau Claire has become a lucrative location for commercial developers.

Now, a patch of property is being seen as desirable to some, while others want it left as is.

Galloway Grille has been around for 13 years, and right next door, Scooter’s bar has been in business for nearly 24 years. But, big changes could be happening to that block of downtown Eau Claire and it all comes down to the plan committee and city council in the coming weeks.

Jody Kvapil, owner of Galloway Grill and co-owner of Scooters told WEAU,

“I feel helpless. I mean I feel like they’ve already made up their mind that they’re going to have that building, and they don’t care about small businesses”.

Members of city council say that the railroad parking lot is a prime location for downtown Eau Claire, right off the Eau Claire River.

Council member Jeremy Gragert says replacing the lot has been a regular topic of discussion.

Jeremy Gragert, a member of Eau Claire City Council says,

"The city has been talking about this railroad lot for years, in terms of developing it for more space for buildings downtown. More mixed use development, housing, restaurants, shop space, we even considered a bus transit center here years ago".

But now that time may officially be here. Although it’s been talked about among city planners, the owner of the building and the businesses say they just received this information 4 days before the planning commission is set to vote on it... And the plan would wipe out their parking lot and their patio space.

“The current plan is a five story building which includes a restaurant and another retail space plus it has 800 to a thousand square feet of commercial spaces that can be rented out to other businesses. They do have a restaurant going in there and they have outdoor place for the new restaurant but they want to take away the outdoor patio from the existing restaurants. I don’t think that’s fair”, said John Mogensen who owns the buildings.

And others agree with Mogensen. A petition was started in opposition of this new plan. Mogensen says Galloway Grille and Scooters would not survive without the patios.

“The one things I’ve asked the city to do is to work out a deal where the existing small businesses who have been here for 24 years can keep their outdoor seating especially with the virus situation now, restaurants without outdoor seating aren’t doing so well,” said Mogensen.

As of 7 p.m. Sunday night, nearly 2,300 signatures were attached to the petition.

“Were hoping for way more than that,” said Kvapil.

But while a petition can be good, Gragert says it’s more important for people to show up and voice their concerns on the project.

“The fact that I’ve only gotten one email about this is strange when you’ve got two thousand people signing the petition. Maybe petitions aren’t the best way for people to have these conversations so I encourage people to send e-mails to the council and call commission members so we can have a real dialogue about what our options are here”

The fate of the patios and the railroad city parking lot falls first, into the hands of the city plan commission Monday night, and if passed, will continue on to city council on August 10th.

Copyright 2020 WEAU. All rights reserved.

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