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Mystery retailer eyes south side Eau Claire site

Leveling land would make way for $30 million development off Highway 93

posted Feb. 17, 2017 12:00 a.m. (CDT)
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by / Andrew Dowd. bio | email

  • Proposed soil transport.jpg

Land that has been a sand mine for 45 years could become the home of a new retail development off Interstate 94 on Eau Claire’s far south side.

Commonweal Development wants to flatten out the hilly 30-acre parcel along Old Town Hall Road, just off the Highway 93 exit of I-94, and move the soil to Lowes Creek County Park. Though the developer did not disclose the identity of the new business, the new development would be worth about $30 million, according to a presentation Commonweal made to Eau Claire County officials this week.

That retail business would pay $690,000 annually in property taxes and generate an estimated $210,000 in county sales taxes, according to Commonweal.

The development site is owned by Mega Co-op, which had planned years ago to put a new grocery store on the land. That plan didn’t materialize, and the Eau Claire company exited the grocery store business a year ago and shifted its focus entirely to convenience stores.

To save on its costs for hauling the sandy soil a longer distance and disposing of it elsewhere, Commonweal is offering to truck it less than a mile away to Lowes Creek County Park.

About 800,000 cubic yards of sandy soil would first fill a clay pit at the park, which was dug in the 1980s and ’90s when the county needed clay for an expansion of Seven Mile Creek Landfill in the town of Seymour.

Beyond filling in that pit, Commonweal will place the soil in accordance with plans the developer, county and park user groups will agree to. After that’s done, Commonweal will add topsoil and plant trees.

“Commonweal has budgeted for the planning and anticipating for final grading, topsoil and plantings,” said Jamie Radabaugh, Commonweal’s director of commercial leasing.

A county committee is accepting comments from the public on the proposal Commonweal is making that would ideally save the company money, bring new business to the area and help improve the park.

“All in all, I’m hoping it will be a good thing for the park,” said Pat LaVelle, chairman of the county’s Parks and Forest Committee.

The committee conducted a public hearing Wednesday night on Commonweal’s proposal and will continue to accept feedback until Wednesday.

If the soil project comes in under budget, a $25,000 donation will be made toward other park improvements.

“If we can improve our parks and not cost our taxpayers, that’s a big thing,” LaVelle said.

While specific enhancements have not yet been decided, some ideas floated during meetings include an expansion of bike and ski trails, adding ball fields to the park or creating a prairie.

On Feb. 28, the Parks and Forest Committee will decide if it wants to take up Commonweal on its offer, which will then go to the County Board for a final vote.

“That’s just the beginning,” LaVelle said, noting that Commonweal’s plans also would need approval from the state Department of Natural Resources.

A county fact sheet sets a goal of reviewing final plans on or before July 1.

Contact: 715-833-9204, andrew.dowd@ecpc.com, @ADowd_LT on Twitter