Eau Claire City Hall

Eau Claire City Hall, 203 S. Farwell St.

Eau Claire’s economy performed well last year and quality of life is improving for residents, but there are still challenges the city continues to face, local government leaders said at an address Friday morning.

City Manager Dale Peters and Terry Weld, president of the City Council, delivered the annual State of the City address to a room full of local business and community leaders.

“2019 was a solid year for the economy of the Chippewa Valley,” Peters said.

The community saw a net gain in jobs, wages were generally up and the year averaged 2.7% unemployment, which was lower than the state and nation.

And in Eau Claire’s downtown specifically, there was $15.3 million in new construction and renovation last year. During the last five years, there has been a total of more than $74 million in private-sector investment in redeveloping the city’s downtown, according to the presentation.

After the city eliminated longstanding covenants last year for its Sky Park Industrial Center, that southwest side business park saw a quick spurt of new interest in companies buying land there.

But there were also a couple of challenges to the business sector that the city is looking for ways it can help.

A few large retailers, namely Shopko and Sears, closed their stores in Eau Claire during the past two years. The city is hoping to find alternative uses for those large buildings.

A shortage of ready-to-build land for industrial businesses is another issue the city is planning to address.

Friday morning’s speech wasn’t just limited to business sector concerns as Peters and Weld covered a range of city topics connected with the theme of “quality of life.”

They recapped last year’s city accomplishments including renovation of City Hall, opening a new downtown plaza, the reconstruction of State Street and dealing with record snowfall last winter.

Fostering more affordable housing in Eau Claire has been a priority during the past couple of years and that work is ongoing in 2020.

The city bought 19 acres of vacant land off of Jeffers Road last year with the intent of creating a small neighborhood of affordable single-family homes.

The city would build infrastructure there and then sell lots to developers at cost, Weld said. Detailed plans for how that neighborhood will be laid out and how those homes would remain affordable are expected to come out this summer.

Friday’s speech marked the final time that Peters co-delivered the State of the City speech as he recently announced that he will retire in May. He has worked for the city for just over 30 years with the last four in the position of city manager.

A standing ovation of the 100 people in attendance welcomed Peters to the stage at the speech, which is sponsored by the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce.

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