Late this afternoon, the Eau Claire City Council approved $5 million in city funding toward the Confluence Arts Center.
The 11-0 vote by the city council is the final action necessary by a public body for funding of the $40 million arts center and represents another major milestone in our collective journey to bring this audacious project from dream to reality.
I want to personally thank the city council for their vote to fund the project and for their commitment to continuing the revitalization and re-imagination of Eau Claire's downtown. I especially want to recognize City Council President Kerry Kincaid for her determined leadership and tireless advocacy for the project — here at home, with the UW System Board of Regents and at the state Capitol.
This unique partnership among UW-Eau Claire, the city of Eau Claire, Eau Claire County, the Eau Claire Regional Arts Council, Visit Eau Claire, state of Wisconsin, donors, business community, private partners and advocates has demonstrated that by working together, we can achieve so much more than by doing it alone. Talk about The Power of AND in action!
Improved performing and fine arts facilities are UW-Eau Claire's highest academic building priority. By working together, the university and the community both will realize new state-of-the-art facilities that will not only serve the needs of our individual creative and artistic endeavors, but lead to greater collaborations between our faculty and students and their community counterparts.
At a time when I have been discussing the negative impacts of the 2015-17 state budget on our campus, it is important also to recognize the state's sizeable contribution to the Confluence Arts Center. The $15 million investment by the state is the largest single source of funding for the arts center — and I am grateful to our area legislators and Governor Scott Walker for including the funding in the budget.
With the last piece of public funding committed, and with the $13.5 million fundraising goal in sight, work begins in earnest to design and construct the arts center. It is anticipated that the design will be finalized in early 2016, construction will begin in summer and the arts center will open in early 2018.
Together with Haymarket Landing, the Blugold Real Estate-supported mixed-use and apartment building already under construction, and the public plaza and riverside trails to be developed by the city of Eau Claire, the Confluence Project represents a new level of success in the long history of university-community collaboration.