EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Perched within downtown Eau Claire, the sculpture of 'Hard Hat Joe, Jr.' looks ready to get to work. Monday, it was looking right at a place which could soon be worked on.
The Eau Claire Plan Commission approved for Pablo Properties to redevelop a majority of the current U.S. Bank building at the corner of Gibson and S. Barstow streets.
Under the plan, the bank would remain, but downscale to 36,000 square feet. The remaining floors would change from office to 17 residential units – six one-bedroom, 10 two-bedroom units, and one penthouse – for a total of 20,638 square feet.
A future plan for the bank upon relocation shows the office space converted to a restaurant and office space.
“When you can rehab these buildings into different use, especially housing, people appreciate that,” Ryan Petrie, an associate planner for the City of Eau Claire, said to WEAU 13 News on Monday. “A 6-story building, people will have good views, good amenities location-wise, you probably wouldn’t need a car if you worked downtown.
"You always will need a place to live - especially in the downtown. So, converting that into downtown apartments is a good situation."
The building opened as Union National Bank in 1930 and remains one of the tallest in the city of Eau Claire. According to the Chippewa Valley Museum, there was a run on the banks in Eau Claire on Sept. 22, 1931, during the Great Depression. The Union National Bank was the only bank that didn’t close or have to reorganize.
Now, with this move by Pablo to occupy the historic structure’s upper floors, it could signal a move for more restoration in the Sawdust City.
This follows on the decision by Foxconn earlier this year to take over the former Scandinavian American Fraternity building at Graham and E. Grand avenues.
"Over the years, they've become more and more vacant, potentially. Now, we're going to see two projects that are hopefully going to sustain the two buildings for long-term use and long-term growth of the downtown."
Pablo is also looking to add green space and roof-top dining on the adjoining two-story structure – located on an addition to the original building, which opened in 1980.
There are people already renting within the U.S. Bank building. Pablo officials told the plan commission that Monday’s move will not immediately impact those living there and that any future apartments would be listed at market value.
In recent years, Pablo Properties has become a familiar name within Eau Claire – especially in downtown. With Monday’s approval from the plan commission, Pablo can now add one more location to its ever-growing portfolio.
"It really has to align with the success of Jamf and we are fortunate to have the time and capital to make investments right now," Julia Johnson, one of the partner for Pablo Properties, said to WEAU 13 News after Monday’s approval.
No timeline for any redevelopment was announced.