Eau Claire Votes In Favor Of Confluence Project Funding

Passage Of One Referendum, Failure Of Another Represents Major Step Forward For Project

Above, an artistic rendering of the Confluence Project.

Voters in Eau Claire County voiced their support for an $80 million performing arts center and student housing proposal known as the Confluence Project on Tuesday.

There were two referendum questions on Tuesday’s ballot. Unofficial results show that 54 percent of county voters supported contributing $3.5 million dollars towards the performing arts center in downtown Eau Claire. In the city of Eau Claire, voters were asked if the city should pass a charter ordinance requiring future referendums for any city arts project worth $1 million or more. That referendum failed, with only 40 percent of voters supporting it.

Ben Richgruber is the director of the Eau Claire Regional Arts Council, which is a partner in the Confluence Project. He says the results show residents want this project.

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“This community wants to move forward,” Richgruber said. “We want to take some big bold steps, come up with some new ideas to revitalize our downtown and rejuvenate our arts scene here, and keep that going nice and strong too.”

Eau Claire city council member Bob Von Haden represents Voters with Facts, a group which pushed for the referendums. He respects voters’ decision but says questions still need to be answered.

“So, until we get the project totally defined, we come up with a reasonable operating budget, we find out a way that the city can find the funds to contribute to the project — all of these things are part of the process that still have to be accomplished,” Von Haden said.

The project still faces a number of hurdles, like getting approval from the University of Wisconsin System’s Board of Regents for a major portion of the funding. Nevertheless, supporters say Tuesday’s voter approval is a major step.