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Eau Claire ranked No. 2 'Most Livable College Town' in U.S.

| Denise Olson

Photo caption: Pablo Center at the Confluence sits next to university housing at Haymarket Landing to its right and across a footbridge from the city's popular Phoenix Park along the Chippewa River.

As the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire continues to gain national recognition for excellence in education and undergraduate collaborative research, the city of Eau Claire is earning bragging rights for its livability as a college community.

In March 2021, the city of Eau Claire was ranked nationally as the fifth "Most Livable Small City," according to the financial technology firm SmartAsset.

The same firm now has completed an analysis that ranked Eau Claire No. 2 on its list of "Most Livable College Towns." Chapel Hill, North Carolina, home of the University of North Carolina, ranked No. 1.

According to their Aug. 20 ranking, the metrics SmartAsset considered for this analysis were:

  • Median household income.
  • Housing costs as a percentage of household income.
  • Concentration of restaurants and entertainment.
  • Average commute time.
  • Percentage of homes with internet access.
  • Unemployment rate.
  • Crime rates.

SmartAsset described Eau Claire as:

“The town of 68,000 residents is home to the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and has the 16th-highest concentration of restaurants and entertainment establishments across our study (11.45%). Eau Claire also ranks eighth-best for relatively low housing costs as a percentage of median income (19.84%). Its average commute time of 16.2 minutes is 14th-best across our study.”

Livability is a priority for people considering a move to a community, and it helps employers like UW-Eau Claire attract top talent, says David Miller, director of Human Resources at UW-Eau Claire.

Blugolds jumping in street downtown for UW meets EC

Each fall, new Blugolds are introduced to downtown Eau Claire through a walking tour event called "UW Meets EC," where downtown businesses offer deals, promo items and samples of what the district offers.

“In addition to UW-Eau Claire being attractive as an employer, we benefit from being based in Eau Claire,” Miller says. “The Eau Claire area has many appealing attributes — cultural events, recreational activities, affordable housing, outstanding health care availability — all of which prove to be enticing to candidates looking to relocate.”

Thanks to concerted efforts to partner over the last two decades, the university and the city enjoy a unique and mutually beneficial relationship that works to the betterment of life for everyone in the Chippewa Valley. The ongoing collaboration has produced two landmark public-private partnership projects that stand out in the state and the region, says Jay Winzenz, city finance director.

“Perhaps the most visible recent partnership is the development of Pablo Center at the Confluence,” Winzenz says. “The university had a need for updated facilities and the city had a need for a community arts facility. Working in partnership, the university, the city and the community were all able to achieve their goals. 

“On the heels of that successful partnership, we are once again partnering on a project of mutual benefit — the Sonnentag Event Center. The facility will provide a new sports venue for Blugold athletics and will also provide the community with a large event center capable of hosting larger concerts and events. These are just a couple examples of how the city and university work together to make Eau Claire one of the most livable college towns in the country.”