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Haymarket Plaza to finish this summer

A new downtown Eau Claire public plaza will be finished this summer after weather delayed its completion last fall.

A bridge, a river wall and some of the paving work were done last year, but a wet autumn prevented addition of colored concrete, landscaping, paver stones, large seating blocks, fountains and lighting.

About eight weeks’ worth of work remains to complete Haymarket Plaza, city engineer David Solberg said, and the goal is to have it finished by early July.

“We definitely are excited as anybody to get it open to the public,” he said.

But the weather following Eau Claire’s snowiest winter on record will have a big influence on that schedule.

“We’ve got to get some dry weather,” Solberg said.

Rain makes it difficult to work at the plaza site, which is next to Pablo Center at the Confluence, along the riverfront where the Eau Claire and Chippewa rivers meet.

Contractors were eager to resume work as soon as they saw a break in the inclement weather. A handrail went up along the tall retaining wall earlier this month — after much of the winter’s snow had melted, but before an early spring snowstorm.

While the last of the snow was melting in the sunshine, other contractors showed up on site last week to get an idea on when they could start on their pieces of the plaza.

Artwork is also going to be added to the plaza this summer.

To select sculptures for the plaza, the city turned to the Eau Claire Public Arts Council to pick artists that can make lasting pieces to withstand the elements as well as reflect the setting.

“These will be pieces designed specifically for this park. They’re not off-the-shelf work,” said Greg Johnson, chairman of the arts council.

The arts council anticipates announcing its selections for the park in May, choosing one to three sculptures that fit in the $90,000 budget for the park’s artwork provided by the city.

The plaza’s location and its surroundings are meant to have some influence on the artwork, Johnson said. Standing in the plaza, one can see the tall buildings downtown, several bridges crossing the Eau Claire and Chippewa rivers, and a mix of nature and development.

The council is working with a trio of artists who were chosen out of 60 found by a nationwide search firm.

Fabrication and logistics of moving large sculptures means the artwork will likely arrive sometime this summer in Eau Claire, Johnson said. The sculptures likely will be installed after the plaza work is completed, he said, which could make another opportunity for residents to come out and see the site this summer.

Haymarket Plaza was originally intended to finish a little after the grand opening of Pablo Center, which happened last September.

The downtown Eau Claire performing arts center has numerous musical, theater, dance and spoken-word performances already on its calendar for this summer, as well as ongoing art exhibits.

Pablo’s May schedule includes season-ending concerts by two local symphonies, several contemporary musical performances, local best-selling author Michael Perry’s humorous reflections on working in the arts world and local theater group productions of the musical “Mamma Mia!” and the Mozart opera “Don Giovanni.”

Already slated for this summer are runs of “Footloose the Musical” and “Peter Pan” performed by area theater troupes, a show from musical group Kids From Wisconsin and Diamond School of Dance’s annual spring show.

Throughout the summer, Pablo Center’s galleries will be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays with exhibits featuring emerging artists, local landscapes and ecological themes.