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Downtown business owners voice parking-related concerns over new Transit Center project

With a multitude of new projects breaking ground in downtown Eau Claire this summer, small business owners are voicing concerns of the impact, lack of parking and construction traffic will have on their storefronts.
Published: Mar. 24, 2021 at 4:42 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -Apartments, building renovations and a long-planned transit center are all scheduled to break ground in the next few months.

“There’s a lot of moving parts downtown coming off of a year of nothing happening, and understandably everybody’s excited to get their projects moving forward,” says Matt Pabich, owner of Raggedy Man.

Pabich is entering his fourth year in business next month.

“The concern is that nobody has really had conversations with each other about how all of this happening at once is going to affect the people who just got through this,” Pabich says.

His business relies on foot traffic and public parking plays a big role in how many people can walk by.

“New businesses, I don’t think are aware of it, or the impact or what it means in terms of, this parking’s going away, this parking’s going away,” says Pabich. “For me the hope would be that we’d be able to tell our customers, just so you know this is coming, but there’s nothing to worry about, there’s going to be ample parking, there’s going to be lots of signage, it’ll be super clear where you can and can’t park.”

Downtown Eau Claire will have three fewer parking lots for visitors to use this summer: the Four Corners Lot is now private parking, the Schlegelmilch-McDaniel Lot and the current transfer center lot will also be unavailable during construction of the new transit center.

“My business and my building, which I am a building owner also, is backed up to this new project, and yet nobody’s even come and knocked on my door, and said hey how is the timing?”

Owner of Houligans on south Barstow Street, Jon Seybold, shares Pabich’s concerns.

“We have very little time to plan and market our downtown for not only community people but out of town visitors,” says Seybold. “Many of our businesses have been so disrupted over the last year and financially taking some big blows and now to have this project that’s been in the works forever to take place now, the timing is I guess inopportune for a lot of us.”

Leah Ness is a deputy engineer with the city, she says changes to downtown parking will start going out next month.

“Some of the lots as you enter April 1, will have bags over the meters and we’ll have some temporary signage in the parking lots as well indicating the restrictions have changed,” says Ness.

A majority of the impact will be east of Farwell Street and south of Lake Street.

“To accommodate for that free parking we’ve opened up our Main Street Lot and our Seaver Street Lot, which will have no fees related to them or time frames as well for parking,” says Ness.

That’s all information Matt Pabich has been hoping someone would start sharing with small businesses.

“There’s a conversation that needs to be had regardless because, these are big projects, they’re long projects and they’re definitely going to have waves that affect the whole community down here, eventually the waves will be good, great, it’s just the immediate ones are concerning,” says Pabich.

The Railroad Street Lot east of Barstow and west of Barwell will also be closed beginning in April.

Parking information can be found on the city’s engineering parking website and also on the Downtown Eau Claire, Inc website.

Bagged MetersTo help address some of the impacted parking due to this project the following parking lots will have bagged meters to allow for free parking starting in Mid-May. View downtown parking ramps & lots map.

  • Seaver Street Lot
  • Farwell Street Lot at Main Street
  • Riverside Parking Deck

Free, Non-hour Restricted, On-street ParkingPlease view the map to see the appropriate blocks on the following streets that offer this option.

  • Seaver Street
  • Emery Street
  • Earl Street
  • Dewey Street

Timeline*Potential for dates to occur later, but this is the current information

  • Mid-May 2021 - Eastern half of Schlegelmilch-McDaniel Lot will be unavailable for repaving work to be done to accommodate for the Temporary Transit Center
  • Mid-June 2021 - Construction of Temporary Transit Center Site in Eastern half of Schlegelmilch-McDaniel Lot
  • End of July 2021 through End of June 2022 - Parking in both Schlegelmilch-McDaniel Lot & Current Transfer Center Lot will be unavailable

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