Imagining a quandary many parents have faced — one kid wants to stay on the monkey bars, but the other urgently has to go to the restroom — Catherine Emmanuelle took a second look at plans for a new building slated for a city park.
With that common scenario in mind, the Eau Claire city councilwoman asked if plans for the restrooms and pavilion slated for Owen Park would allow a parent to supervise both children.
“If you were trying to keep an eye on both areas, that would be a challenge no doubt,” replied the city’s community services director, Jeff Pippenger.
As presented Monday night to the City Council, the new building’s women’s restroom would have a door facing the playground, but the men’s and family restrooms would be on the opposite side of the building.
The building’s design prevents all three restrooms from opening on the same side, but Emmanuelle suggested a slight change so doors to the men’s and family restrooms would be visible from the playground and the door to the women’s restroom would be on the opposite side.
Pippenger replied that he’d look into that change, adding that it’s doubtful that making that switch will be an inconvenience.
The council is set to vote during its 4 p.m. meeting today on plans for the building, which will replace Owen Park’s older restrooms, which are closer to the Chippewa River and can be inaccessible at times due to flooding.
Senior planner Pat Ivory said there is important mechanical equipment in the old building that will stay put, but it will be closed as a restroom when the new facilities open.
The new building will be between the playground and Boyd Band Shell on a plateau raised out of the floodplain when Xcel Energy removed tainted soil and restored that section of the park in 2013.
Eau Claire resident Donald Sherman spoke during Monday night’s public hearing to say that it is a good idea to put the new building between Owen Park’s busiest attractions.
“It will be a great compromise for families with children playing on the playground while they’re at the band shell,” he said.
Anticipated for construction this year, the city has budgeted $280,000 for the building, which will include the restrooms and a 576-square-foot shelter that can be reserved for picnics.
Council members raised a concern at Monday night’s meeting about signs used to identify the different restrooms. For the family restroom, Councilman Andrew Werthmann suggested that it also be labeled as a gender-neutral restroom.
Ivory noted that idea was raised last week by the city’s Plan Commission, but he said the state doesn’t recognize “gender neutral” as a restroom label.
Werthmann replied that UW-Eau Claire has restrooms with that designation in some of its buildings and he feels that the city should be able to do the same.
Emmanuelle supported Werthmann’s stance, noting that it’s not just the university that has gender-neutral restrooms. Starbucks also has them, she said.
Gender neutral and family restrooms are essentially the same in building terms — a restroom with a locking door that could be used either by any individual or a parent with small children.
The City Council also held a public hearing Monday night on Menards’ request to rezone a vacant building it bought in 2017 at 2517 Truax Blvd. so the retailer could move its surplus store there.
Located just north of the home improvement chain’s store on Eau Claire’s west side, the building would replace the surplus store location currently at Menards corporate headquarters on the city’s northwest side.
“This location presents a better space, better access for the general public,” Nick Brenner, a real estate representative for the company.