Tuesday, September 18, 2018

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Eau Claire's Graham Avenue to get decorative updates

But property owner objects, citing higher costs for unneeded amenities

  • dr-Graham-4a-031418-4

    Traffic flows Tuesday along Graham Avenue in Eau Claire. Construction will occur this year on the downtown street, with some amenities being added such as benches, decorative lighting and paver bricks. Local developer John Mogensen has spoken out against some of these changes, saying it’s unfair for property owners to have to pay for expensive amenities when cheaper options are available. View more photos at LeaderTelegramPhotos.com.

    Staff photo by Dan Reiland
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  • John-Mogensen-Eau-Claire-real-estate-developer-2010-photo

Plans will continue for decorative lighting and brick pavers to be installed during construction this year on downtown streets, despite one local developer’s comments that the amenities are unnecessary.

Graham Avenue, from Eau Claire to Lake streets; Main Street, from South Barstow Street to the Chippewa River; and Gray Street, from South Barstow Street to 156 feet west of Graham Avenue, are all due for updates this year that include new utilities, streets and sidewalks.

The streets also would be spruced up with amenities such as decorative pavers in the boulevard and crosswalk area, decorative lighting, tree grates, bike racks, benches and trash receptacles, among others. Streetscape costs for the Graham Avenue project hover around $687,000.

That was concerning for local developer John Mogensen, who owns several properties in two of those areas. 

That’s because Mogensen and other property owners with buildings next to the construction site would see additional costs on their tax bills in the form of special assessments, which help pay for the cost of road projects nearby. 

That helps the city recoup about 30 to 35 percent of the project cost, said city project engineer Tim Pluth. 

“We try to recoup a portion of the cost when we build a project,” Pluth said. “The city does not put the full cost of the project onto the property owners.”

In a letter to city council members, Mogensen wrote that brick pavers would cost four times more than standard concrete, and the cost for decorative versus standard lighting would be about three times as much. 

“The additional costs proposed are extremely excessive, and I find them unnecessary,” he wrote.

Pluth said Tuesday that the amenities included in the project are in line with earlier-established city plans, and Eau Claire council members agreed to move forward with the project Tuesday. 

“All of these items that we’re talking about were set back in 2013, and we worked with the business owners and the BID (Business Improvement District) as far as what they wanted the downtown to look like,” he said.

Mogensen told council members during a public hearing session Monday that such amenities were excessive because cheaper options are available.

“If the city wants to have this all uniform, the additional assessment should be charged to the city fund and not individual property owners,” he said, noting they are being forced to pay for amenities they don’t need.

The projects would be similar to South Barstow Street, city documents stated.

Contact: 715-833-9206, elizabeth.dohms@ecpc.com, @EDohms_LT on Twitter

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