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Garfield Avenue redo changes face of UW-Eau Claire lower campus

| Julie Poquette

The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s reputation as “Wisconsin’s Most Beautiful Campus” has been enhanced with the completion of the $12.4 million Garfield Avenue redevelopment project.

In the planning since 2008 and under construction since March 2017, the project has resulted in a transformed campus riverfront, providing extensive walkways and multiple outdoor venues along the Chippewa River that winds through the heart of the university.

Gone is the former asphalt roadway that served as a barrier to the river. In its place is a welcoming pedestrian and bicycle thoroughfare closed to general vehicle traffic. Attractive concrete and brickwork walkways lead through green spaces bordered by trees and other native plantings, providing a serene setting from which to take in Chippewa River views. The old stairway and steep ramp at the south end of the campus footbridge have been replaced by two river observation decks and a gently sloped pathway to the heart of lower campus. 

“The Chippewa River is now the 'front porch' of the university,” said Chancellor James Schmidt. “This project embraces the riverfront in ways that were never possible when the old roadway ran along it. The project highlights our amazing scenic views and integrates the river fully into the overall beauty of our campus. It is wonderful to finally take full advantage of our amazing location along the Chippewa River.” 

At its west end, the redevelopment project included the removal of the Putnam parking lot and, in its place, the creation of an outdoor classroom and passageway into the Putnam Park natural area. Further to the east, the Chippewa River Terrace serves as a gathering space with a river lookout area and gas firepits on each end. Just west of the footbridge, a small outdoor amphitheater can be used for classes, performances or informal gatherings. 

The project also included the renovation of the Roosevelt Avenue cul de sac just south of Schneider Hall. 

What visitors do not see, however, are the thousands of linear feet of new utilities installed underfoot. In fact, the replacement of failing subsurface utilities (including aging sanitary sewer lines that ran adjacent to the river) were the impetus for the project and made up approximately 75 percent of its budget. 

A few key numbers help tell the story of the Garfield Avenue redevelopment project, which involved more than 320 workers and 29 subcontractors and suppliers:

  • 109,772 square feet of sod installed.
  • 3,413 cubic yards of topsoil spread.
  • 110,024 square feet of concrete poured.
  • 15,762 bricks laid.
  • 202 trees, 221 shrubs and 10,050 perennials planted.
  • 78 lights installed.

“Garfield Avenue Redevelopment is the culmination of years of planning, beginning with the drafting of our 2010-30 Campus Master Plan, and it is exciting to see the vision for the reimagination of our campus riverfront come to fruition," said Mike Rindo, assistant chancellor for facilities and university relations. "I am especially grateful to those who have been instrumental in the design, construction and project management process for all they have done to make this transformative project a reality.”

Top photo caption: Students, faculty, staff and community members held a celebration Oct. 18 along the newly redeveloped Garfield Avenue corridor on UW-Eau Claire's lower campus.