An alternative way of financing the Confluence Project in Eau Claire is on the agenda of the University of Wisconsin Regents meeting on Thursday at UW-Oshkosh.
“In essence, we are going to a non-state agency grant,” said Mike Rindo, UW-Eau Claire assistant chancellor for facilities and university relations.
Originally, state funding for the project was to go through the University of Wisconsin System.
In June, Gov. Scott Walker backed the Confluence Project, but said perhaps there was another way to fund it.
The method the regents are considering is a non-state agency grant. “There have been a number of these grants that have been made each biennium,” Rindo said.
The first step in the process is including the money in the governor’s budget. Then the project would be approved by the state Building Commission, Joint Finance Committee, Legislature and then signed into law by the governor.
The state would provide $25 million for the project. Other funding sources would include $5 million from the city of Eau Claire, $3.5 million from Eau Claire County, $12-$13 million from philanthropy and $3 million from what’s called new market tax credits.
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“We’ve known all along that the regents’ support for the Confluence arts center is crucial to the future of the project, so we’re pleased that they will be considering a resolution of support for the project and seeking state funding for it,” UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt said.
“Since Gov. (Scott) Walker’s remarks in June during his visit to Eau Claire, we’ve known that a non-UW System route to funding was a possibility. We look forward to the regents approving the resolution and bringing the Confluence arts center one step closer to becoming a reality.”
The regents’ resolution for the 2015-17 biennial budget directs Ray Cross, the UW System president, to work with the Wisconsin Department of Administration to implement the project.
Rindo said the Confluence Project in downtown Eau Claire would be a privately-funding mixed use project. On the first floor of the building would be retail and mixed use. On upper floors there would be apartments for about 375 people.
The project also calls for a shared university arts center, replacing the State Theater and Kjer Theater on campus. The project calls for a 1,200 to 1,500 seat main theater, a 450-seat mid-sized theater and 250 seat black-box-style venue. There would also be fine arts studios, and space for an gallery and dance studio.
The change in the funding mechanism by the regents would be an important step for the project, Rindo said.
“It really gives us a very definitive way forward,” he said.