Plans to renovate a hotel in downtown Eau Claire are back on track, thanks to much-needed funding assistance from a state agency and the city.
On Tuesday the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. announced a $500,000 Community Development Investment Grant for the city of Eau Claire to help fund the renovation of The Oxbow Hotel, 516 Galloway St. Another $250,000 no-interest loan will be added by the city as a 50 percent match requirement of the grant. The City Council must formally accept the grant.
Local entrepreneurs Nick Meyer, Zach Halmstad, Ben Richgruber and Justin Vernon anchor Longform LLC, the developers of the renovation of the former Green Tree Inn.
“We were pretty much at a stopping point,” Meyer, Volume One magazine publisher, said, “unless we found some creative ways to fill a financing gap. This would not have been possible without the partnership with the city.”
Interior demolition at the site already has taken place, and the project is scheduled to be finished by next summer. Plans call for the “boutique” hotel to feature 30 rooms, a 70-seat restaurant and bar, a performance space and additional outdoor seating.
“We want to make a place in Eau Claire where our rich tradition of jazz can meet with other types of improvised performances and songwriting,” Vernon, a two-time Grammy Award winner and frontman for Bon Iver, said in a news release. “Where we put the emphasis on cultivating a calendar of quality music appreciation.”
Rooms will feature “a modern lodge aesthetic,” Meyer said, and the property will include a “substantial courtyard and patio.” Tim Brudnicki of Eau Claire Woodworks will craft much of the facility’s furniture.
The Oxbow also will rent bicycles, tubes, canoes and kayaks to take advantage of a nearby bike trail and the Eau Claire and Chippewa rivers.
A planned artist-in-residence program is being modeled after a similar effort at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee. Visiting artists will live in Eau Claire for months at a time and work inside an open glass enclosure in the hotel’s lobby “to pollinate the local arts scene,” Meyer said.
“We want to create an experience,” he said.
Local chef Nathan Berg will lead the hotel’s food operations. “Utilizing local materials, paying homage to this region’s heritage and showcasing the beauty and wonder of the Chippewa Valley and the somewhat greater region of which it is a part” drew Berg to the project, Meyer said.
In addition to Vernon and Meyer, the hotel effort has involved Halmstad, co-founder of JAMF Software, Richgruber, executive director of the Eau Claire Regional Arts Center, and others.
Rhom Construction of Eau Claire is the general contractor for the project, while Peoples Bank Midwest is the commercial lending partner. The primary architects and designers are Eau Claire-based SDS Architects and Shelter Architecture of Minneapolis. Minnesota-based Empirical Hotel Investments is a consultant on the project.
Mark Hogan, the newly named secretary and CEO of WEDC, congratulated Eau Claire during a news conference Tuesday for its “commitment to maintaining a vibrant downtown.”
Eau Claire City Council President Kerry Kincaid added that the “downtown is deep into a Renaissance of epic proportions.”
“I must acknowledge these young entrepreneurs,” she said. “Thank you for staying home.”
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