Including apartments reserved for chronically homeless people garnered praise for a developer’s plan to build on vacant land on Eau Claire’s east side.
Before unanimously approving rezoning for vacant land on the northeast corner of Birch Street and River Prairie Drive, the City Council lauded Gerrard Development’s plan to allocate some apartments for homeless people and set rent at rates affordable to working-class people.
Council President Terry Weld thanked not only the developer, but also local advocacy groups, a regional task force, city officials and others who have made affordable housing a priority in Eau Claire.
Weld added that he hopes other projects similar to Gerrard’s will be coming in the future.
The City Council voted 7-0 —members Emily Anderson, Kate Beaton, Laura Benjamin and Emily Berge were absent — during Tuesday’s meeting to rezone land to allow the development’s planning to proceed.
La Crosse-based Gerrard’s proposed building will have 80 apartments plus space for commercial tenants on land at the top of a bank along the Eau Claire River. Plans for the project specify eight apartments will be reserved for homeless residents, but company vice president Paul Gerrard put the number at 14 during Monday night’s council meeting.
Though Gerrard would develop the building, Glenwood City-based West Central Wisconsin Community Action Agency would own it and Independence-based Western Dairyland Community Action Agency would help with supportive housing funding for the tenants who would be coming from homelessness.
Councilwoman Catherine Emmanuelle said this was the first time a developer came to Eau Claire with a pledge to create housing specifically for the homeless.
Councilman Andrew Werthmann believes the project is a reflection of Eau Claire’s desire to improve the quality of life for people living here.
“What we’re seeing is really a shift in culture in our community about how we feel about housing,” he said.
Councilman Jeremy Gragert also remarked that Gerrard’s project will create a positive first impression for people coming to Eau Claire.
“It’s great we can make use of this piece of property as it is an entrance to the city,” he said.
Slated to begin construction in spring 2021, the project will be on the edge of Eau Claire, just on the opposite side of the Eau Claire River from Altoona’s River Prairie development.
Gragert also said he appreciated the bike path extension included in the Prairie Heights plans and that it is located along two city bus routes.
Though the council approved the rezoning on Tuesday, there will be future approvals sought in the future for more detailed plans of the development.
Also during Tuesday’s meeting:
• Maps to create two new housing subdivisions won the council’s approval. Forty-eight twin homes are planned along Jeffers Road on Eau Claire’s north side. Forty-four single-family homes are envisioned for land southeast of the intersection of highways II and 93 in the town of Washington.
• The council unanimously approved a union labor contract with the Eau Claire Firefighters, Local 487 that encompasses 2020 and 2021. The contract includes 1.25% raises on Jan. 1 and July 1 of both years. Those raises were the same amount that the city established for its nonunion employees through the 2020 budget.