Why do things look different along Garfield Avenue? It’s a question on the minds of most Blugolds returning for the spring semester.
Here’s why you're seeing changes to the view on UW-Eau Claire's lower campus.
The Garfield Avenue redevelopment project will begin this semester, and the removal of trees during December and January — before birds begin nesting in spring — is the first of many changes expected on lower campus between now and fall 2018.
Tree removals are necessary because extensive digging will be required as underground utilities are replaced and others extended during the project, said Mike Rindo, assistant chancellor for facilities and university relations and chair of the Garfield Avenue project committee.
The replacement of aging utilities is important for sustainability and to protect the environment, Rindo said. For example, the project will replace aging sanitary sewer lines alongside the Chippewa River and install better insulated steam lines that will ensure less heat loss.
Larger trees being removed will be recycled through urban forest renewal programs that use the trees to create new wood products, some of which could be used in future campus building projects and renovations. More than 200 new trees will be planted as part of the redevelopment project.
“It’s always difficult to lose beautiful, mature trees,” Rindo said. “It’s an adjustment to see the changes beginning as we prepare for the mobilization phase of this extensive project.”
The Garfield Avenue redevelopment will be transformational for UW-Eau Claire, Rindo said.
“We have been going through the planning process since 2008, when we held our first input meetings for the development of our facilities master plan," Rindo said. "While the main reason for the project is to replace aging underground utilities, once that work is done there will be surface improvements that will greatly enhance the university’s use of its riverfront location.”
Construction fencing will be installed in mid-March before digging begins in April to replace and extend underground utilities. Surface improvements to follow the project’s underground utilities work will include:
- reconfiguring the south end of the UW-Eau Claire footbridge to improve safety and ADA compliance;
- removing the existing Garfield Avenue street and creating a primarily bicycle and pedestrian thoroughfare;
- removing the Putnam parking lot to create outdoor classroom space;
- creating a scenic overlook along the Chippewa River;
- constructing a small outdoor amphitheater that can be used for classes, performances or informal gatherings, as well as new pathways along the Chippewa River;
- reconfiguring and improving Roosevelt Avenue near Schneider Hall where the roadway curves and leads into UW-Eau Claire’s Phillips parking lot; and
- planting approximately 213 new trees throughout the redeveloped area.
Pedestrian and bicycle traffic routes will be redirected as needed during the project, and the campus footbridge will be closed during the summer months in both 2017 and 2018. The footbridge closing will necessitate some parking changes for faculty, staff and students during the summer months, particularly during new student orientation. Project completion is expected in fall 2018.
Updates regarding changing traffic routes, parking, temporary outages and more will be posted on UW-Eau Claire’s construction website, uwec.ly/future, throughout the Garfield Avenue project.
Photo caption: An artist's rendering shows the concept for an overlook along the Chippewa River bank that will be developed as part of the Garfield Avenue redevelopment project at UW-Eau Claire.