A former Eau Claire nursing home would be converted into upscale apartments overlooking the Chippewa River, according to plans submitted to the city.
A partnership of local companies Pablo Properties, Commonweal Development and Market & Johnson is proposing to turn Syverson Lutheran Home, 816 Porter Ave., into a 47-unit apartment building.
“We intend this to be one of the nicer apartment options in downtown Eau Claire,” said Julia Johnson, one of the partners in Pablo Properties.
The project is seeking city approvals — starting with a decision Wednesday evening by the Waterways and Parks Commission — before the partners would proceed with buying the building from Grace Lutheran Foundation.
The foundation announced in March that it would be closing the building, which had been known as Syverson Rehab and Health in recent years, after residents living there were relocated to other facilities.
If the city grants the necessary approvals, Johnson said, the partners hope to take ownership of the building in fall, make extensive renovations and open the apartments next year.
The building has “good bones” and views of the riverfront and Owen Park, Johnson said.
“It’s really a wonderful property in a great location,” she said.
Designs for the building’s overhaul show 31 one-bedroom apartments, 11 two-bedroom units, three penthouse suites and two studio apartments. A fitness center, community room and storage units are included in the layout.
The building’s shell will remain intact, Johnson said, but there will be major changes inside to break down patient room walls to make larger apartments. Windows, doors and the heating, cooling and ventilation system would all be replaced. The footprint of the building itself will not expand, but three penthouse apartments would be added to the fourth level.
The brick-and-masonry institutional look of the building’s outside also would change, according to the plans. New architectural touches added to the building’s exterior would be influenced by the prairie school — a style made popular by Wisconsin-born architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
Covered parking will be added in front of the building, which also will improve the property’s aesthetics, Johnson said.
The proposed deal between the foundation and project planners also includes removing 822 Porter St. — a ranch home used as an office and storage — and refurbishing the house at 902 PorterSt.
One wing of the second floor has been home to the Eau Claire Free Clinic for the past two years. Project partners are working with the clinic to find it a new location.
The nursing home was built in 1964 and had several additions through the decades. In fall 2015, UW-Eau Claire officials had tried to buy the nursing home for student housing, but that deal fell through.
Those involved in the new project hope renovations there could influence others in the neighborhood to upgrade their buildings as well.
“We would hope that this properties’ improvement might lead to the conversion of other adjacent buildings from student rentals to owner-occupied homes,” architect Jamey Bowe of Chippewa Falls-based River Valley Architects wrote to the city.
Pablo Properties consists of three people who were instrumental in building local software company Jamf: Johnson, Jason Wudi and co-founder Zach Halmstad.
Pablo Properties has been making a name for itself in revitalizing key Eau Claire buildings. In 2013, the company bought a downtown hotel that had fallen on hard times, which then underwent a major renovation and reopened in May 2016 as The Lismore.
Late last year, Pablo Properties bought a series of row houses on West Grand Avenue that are now under renovation.
The philanthropic arm of Pablo Properties donated $5 million to a downtown arts center set to open next month, which bears the name Pablo Center at the Confluence.
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