From attractive fountains and fire features to a riverside trail, creative lighting, public art and green space, Haymarket Plaza is designed to include amenities to appeal to many. 

“I think this space will be used a lot if we make it nice enough,” city engineer David Solberg said of plans for the space between the Haymarket Landing building and the Pablo Center at the Confluence in downtown Eau Claire. 

On Monday, Solberg and city senior planner Pat Ivory told city Plan Commission members about the latest plans for the plaza set to be constructed this summer and completed in time for the scheduled September opening of the arts center. The commission unanimously approved a site plan for that project. 

The city has budged $830,300 for the plaza and $1.5 million for a footbridge over the Eau Claire River connecting it to Phoenix Park. Both will be paid for by downtown tax increment financing districts. 

Designs for the plaza show curved pathways passing through an area that incorporates stones, water, fire and plantings. Large stones used as seating — similar to those found in Phoenix Park — will be included in the plaza. Stones closest to the arts center will be more refined, while those closer to the Eau Claire River will appear more natural.

The space also will include yet-to-be determined art designed to compliment its surroundings, Solberg said. 

Plan Commission members said they generally were impressed by the project. 

“The idea is people wanted a gathering place ... I think you’ve really captured that,” commission member Kathy Mitchell said in reference to plaza plans. 

Commission member Terry Pederson questioned how bicyclists using a trail through the plaza will safely interact with others using that space, especially when it is crowded. 

“There definitely will be conflict there between people and bicyclists wanting to go through there on the trail,” Pederson said. 

Solberg acknowledged that challenge. “That’s something we’re struggling with right now,” he said. 

Mitchell referenced the many public meetings through the years to discuss the plaza. Most recently the latest designs have received the approval of the city’s Waterways and Parks Commission, the state Department of Natural Resources and downtown business groups.

The first work planned this spring at the plaza site will be removing a century-old retaining wall along the river and replacing it with a new one. Installing the bridge and creating the plaza are scheduled to follow. 

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