Stakeholders release Confluence Arts Center plans

Courtesy: UW-Eau Claire
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- When the Confluence Project was first introduced in 2012, it was just an idea.

With new plans unveiled Tuesday, many stakeholders say the project is exceeding their initial expectations.

The Confluence Arts Center will feature a black stone exterior with glass and copper accents. The 130-thousand square foot building is set to be home to two large performance spaces.

"The Confluence Arts big hall has 1200 seats which is 100 seats than the State Theatre. The stage is also twice as large, it will be much deeper and have more wing space and the opportunity to remove some of the seats and have an open floor to increase capacity up to 1500 seats," said Ben Richgruber with the Eau Claire Regional Arts Center.

There will also be a Visit Eau Claire Welcome Center and art gallery space on the first floor.

The second floor will be home to office and meeting space, and the third floor will include space for events and smaller-scale performances as well as a recording studio.

"It's really exciting. This is a very outstanding and dynamic plan, and I think the community should be very happy and pleased with the plans that have been developed," said Eau Claire City Manager Dale Peters.
The initial budget for the project was $40 million, but a detailed cost estimate revealed $5 million more was needed.

"We will not ask for money from the state, city or county. It leaves us primarily with philanthropy," said Kimera Way with the UW-Eau Claire Foundation.

Kimera Way said around $12.5 million has been raised so far through philanthropy sources.

Naming rights for the building and spaces within are also still up for grabs.

Economic Development Administrator Mike Schatz said this is the kind of amenity Eau Claire needs to attract visitors, residents, and businesses.

"I think this is gonna give us a great edge on a lot of cities because we're going to be able to say we have this awesome facility, and it's bringing in so many different things that we haven't been able to before from all aspects of art," said Mike Schatz.

With the proposed Confluence Arts Center, there's still ongoing discussions for the future of the historic State Theatre.

"It's not our plan to abandon the State. We want to work with someone to redevelop the space, so the community can keep using it," said Ben Richgruber.

It was standing room only Tuesday afternoon at the State Theater in Eau Claire as stakeholders for Eau Claire’s Confluence Arts Center unveiled more detailed plans for the 130,000 square foot building in Downtown Eau Claire.

Along with details of what will go inside the three-story building, leaders also revealed a larger price tag. After initially coming to a budget of $40-million, leaders said the price tag on the building is expected to be around $45-million.

The plans, unveiled on Tuesday come after stakeholders spent ten meetings sifting through input from dozens of different community groups.

Back in 2012, when this project was first introduced, it was just an idea that stakeholders say has grown into community collaboration.

“This has exceeded my hopes for what this would become,” UW-Eau Claire Chancellor Jim Schmidt said during the press conference.

The 130,000 square foot building will be home to two large performance spaces.

The large theater will have seating for 1,200 to 1,500, while a smaller, flexible theater, will seat around 400. Kimera Way with the Blugold Foundation says this is a first for our area.

“We don’t have anywhere in the community that has this size stage. This stage is twice the size of the State Theater. More importantly we don’t have the behind the stage facilities that make this very attractive,” Way explained.

Along with the large performance spaces on the first floor, there will also be a Visit Eau Claire welcome center, and art gallery space. The second floor will be home to office and meeting space.

The third floor of the building will include space for events and smaller-scale performances. It will also be home to a recording studio.

Along with the new designs, stakeholders also revealed a higher price tag for the project.

The initial budget was $40-million for the building, but a detailed cost estimate revealed $5-million more was needed, making the new total $45-million.

Leaders say many avenues will be explored to make up that extra money.

“We will not ask for money from the state, city or county. It leaves us primarily with philanthropy and we can still pursue grant opportunities as well,” Way said.

Along with the fundraising and grant options, Way says they are also looking for companies to donate goods and services to the Confluence Arts Center. Naming rights for the building and spaces within it are also still up for grabs.

Moving forward, stakeholders say they plan to hold a groundbreaking for the building in summer or fall of 2016 with building completion set for 2018.

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- The stakeholders of the Confluence Arts Center have released design and floor plans to the public.

It happened during an event in the lobby of Eau Claire's State Theater. That event began at 1 p.m. Tuesday, which will also include a discussion about the ownership model for the facility. The three-story building includes two performance spaces, offices, areas for gatherings like wedding receptions and comedy shows, an outdoor plaza and classroom space for UW-Eau Claire. So far, donors have pitched in or committed more than $12,200,000 to build the $45,000,000 arts center. Organizers hope to bring in a total of $13,500,000 in donations. The arts center will also utilize $23,500,000, which state, county and city government has already pledged.

User groups and stakeholders held 10 meetings with architect and engineering design teams led by Strang Architects of Madison, and Holzman, Moss and Bottino of New York City. That's what led to the development of the plans for the arts center.

Groundbreaking for the arts center is expected in late summer or early fall of this year. The goal is to have it open by 2018. You can see video from the event by clicking on the links at the top of this page. Watch WEAU 13 News at Five, Six and Ten for reaction to the release of the plans.

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (NEWS RELEASE) -- Design plans for the new Confluence Arts Center were presented to the public and news media Tuesday, FEB 9 in the lobby of the State Theatre in downtown Eau Claire. Arts Center ownership, management, and updated budget estimates were also presented at the afternoon press conference. Plans for the arts center were developed during discussions with user groups and stakeholders over the course of 10 meetings with the project’s architect and engineering design teams (Strang Inc. of Madison, and Holzman Moss Bottino Architecture of New York City.

Eau Claire Confluence Arts Inc., a newly formed community-based non-profit, will construct and own the arts center. The Confluence Council, made up of stakeholders, investors, and community leaders, which will oversee operation of the Arts Center.

Confluence Arts Center design
The three-story Confluence Arts Center will encompass approximately 130,000 square feet. It will serve the Eau Claire Regional Arts Council, UW-Eau Claire, local arts organizations and Visit Eau Claire.

The design includes the following:

• Two theatres: a large 1,200 to 1,500 capacity theater; a flexible, multi-purpose theatre that can seat up to 400 people
• a large and open lobby space overlooking a large public plaza that is part of the Confluence Project
• an intimate performance space currently called the Clearwater Room
• scene and costume shops, dressing rooms and back-of-house operations
• dance studio and music and theater rehearsal rooms that can double as performance or meeting spaces
• art gallery space and a recording studio
• a Visit Eau Claire welcome center for tourists and downtown visitors
• office space for Visit Eau Claire, the Eau Claire Regional Arts Council and UW-Eau Claire faculty and staff.

Major design elements
The exterior of the arts center features a large canopy that runs the length of the building, along Graham Avenue, covering the front entrance. Anticipated exterior finishes are black stone, glass (including stained glass) and copper. The exterior also includes 15-foot-wide patio area on the building’s west side, running along the Chippewa River.

The large theater design features a traditional styled theater that provides fixed seating for 1,200 and standing-room only seating that increases theatre capacity to 1,500. It is designed to function as a concert hall and a theatre. This dual use will be accomplished through the incorporation of a sound shell that will match the interior of the theatre when in concert hall configuration and a curtain-draped proscenium for theatrical productions. The standing-room only configuration will be made possible through the removal of seats on the orchestra level of the large theater directly in front of the stage. Once the seats are removed, the standing-room-only section will be a flat floor.

The large theater includes a balcony and also box-style balcony seating extending along the sides of the theatre.

The stage of the large theatre measures 40 feet by 80 feet (approximately twice as large as the stage at Eau Claire’s State Theatre), capable of accommodating large orchestral and choral groups, dance ensembles, major theatrical productions, music concerts and other performances. The theater will be equipped with state-of-the-art theatrical and sound equipment to support a wide array of performances.

The flexible theater’s design provides seating for up to 400 in a variety of seating configurations. The flexible theater will have fixed seats that can be installed or removed on a track system (high-quality seats similar to fixed theatrical seating). The flexible theatre has balcony seating on three sides. The floor of the flexible theater will be flat and able to accommodate seating arrangements like theater in the round, thrust or other nontraditional configurations.

The interior of the flexible theater will have an industrial feel: exposed red brick or block walls and the theatrical equipment clearly visible to audience members. It will be unlike any performance space currently available in the Eau Claire region, resembling those typically found only in larger metropolitan areas, and will provide artistic directors and performers myriad options for staging of productions.

The Lobby of the arts center will be adjacent to the planned public plaza, at the corner of Eau Claire Street and Graham Avenue, between the arts center and Haymarket Landing, the building currently under construction. The lobby will serve both theaters and will be large enough to accommodate simultaneous performances in both theaters. The multi-story tall lobby will face north and feature expansive views of the Chippewa River, visible through a wall of windows.

Estimated price of arts center increases
May 2012, when the Confluence Project was first announced, it was estimated the arts center would cost approximately $51 million. That estimate was based largely on anticipation of $25 million from the State of Wisconsin. When Gov. Scott Walker announced in January 2015 that he would include $15 million in state funding for the project in his proposed budget, project partners made modifications to the original arts center concept, based on a $40 million project. When that decision was made, partners also indicated that the design could not compromise the overall vision, mission and functionality of the arts center.

The arts center as designed meets the stated and demonstrated needs of UW-Eau Claire, the Eau Claire Regional Arts Council, local arts organizations and Visit Eau Claire. It also provides sufficient flexibility to accommodate future educational and other programming growth not currently envisioned.

To fully understand the estimated cost of constructing the arts center as designed, a detailed cost estimate was performed. Based on that estimate, the current cost of the arts center is $45 million. Project partners are determined that, rather than make any significant changes to the arts center, as originally conceived, they will pursue more funding sources in order to meet the additional $5 million cost.

There will be no request for additional funding from city, county or state government.
The current identified funding sources and amounts for the arts center are:

• $5 million, city of Eau Claire
• $3.5 million, Eau Claire County
• $15 million, state of Wisconsin non-agency grant
• $13.5 million, philanthropy
• $3 million, new market tax credits.

An additional $5 million will raised as follows: increase the philanthropy goal by an amount still to be determined; seeking donated or discounted building materials and in-kind construction-related services; pursuing additional grants and funds from regional and national foundations and other sources who have made contributions in the past to projects similar to the Confluence Arts Center. Naming rights for the arts center building and other facilities within the arts center are also available for individuals or entities interested in such opportunities.

Who’s who with the Confluence Arts Center Project

Eau Claire Confluence Arts Inc. takes over lead role
As the Confluence Arts Center project moves forward to final design and construction, the non-profit group formed to construct and own the building is taking over the lead role. Eau Claire Confluence Arts Inc. now owns the land on which the arts center will be constructed, will manage the project going forward and will own the building when completed.

The following is information about Eau Claire Confluence Arts, the Confluence Council and other partners involved in the project as it moves forward:

Eau Claire Confluence Arts Inc. — the non-profit organization that now owns the land where the Confluence Arts Center will be built, will own the arts center and will be the owner contracting for the construction of the arts center. The organization’s membership includes two representatives from the city, one representative of the Eau Claire Regional Arts Council Endowment Trust, one representative from Haymarket Concepts and up to nine community members who have expertise, experience and direct support of the project. Jerry Jacobson, CEO of Northwestern Bank), is the chair.

Confluence Council — the organization that will be responsible for the day-to-day operation of the arts center, staffing, scheduling, budgeting and the development of policies and procedures. Members of the Confluence Council include representatives from the city of Eau Claire, Visit Eau Claire, Eau Claire Regional Arts Council, arts groups, UW-Eau Claire and the community. Vicki Hoehn, vice President of community engagement for Royal Credit Union, is the chair.

Market and Johnson — the construction manager at risk that will oversee all construction-related activities and represent/work for the owner of the arts center. All construction activities will be competitively bid. Matt Faulkner, executive vice president of Market and Johnson, is the primary contact.

Commonweal Development Corp. — the development and construction consultant working directly for Eau Claire Confluence Arts to provide day-to-day coordination of all activities related to the construction of the arts center, provide construction and budget oversight, and ensure delivery of a finished product. Dan Clumpner, principal at Commonweal Development Corp., is the primary contact.

Philanthropy — The UW-Eau Claire Foundation and Eau Claire Community Foundation are the entities receiving private gifts designated for the Confluence Arts Center. The contacts for all fundraising-related matters are Kimera Way, president of the UW-Eau Claire Foundation, and Sue Bornick, executive director of the Eau Claire Community Foundation

Courtesy: UW-Eau Claire

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