Proposed Apartments 2016

A Mosinee developer has proposed a major apartment complex on Eau Claire’s far west side that could eventually consist of as many as 12 buildings and would be among the largest such developments in the city.  

S.C. Swiderski has submitted plans to city officials to build apartment buildings along Kane Road, near the Menards corporate complex just south of the North Crossing. The first phase of the project the developer describes as “luxury apartments” would include four apartment buildings, and, if there is demand, two additional phases of four buildings each could be constructed later, plans show. 

Each three-story building would be home to 50 to 52 units, according to preliminary plans, and the complex could consist of as many as 618 units if fully developed. Plans also include surface and underground parking, two community recreation rooms, two retention ponds, a designated wetlands and a walking path in green space.

“This is certainly more apartments than we are used to seeing, even for a large apartment development,” city associate planner Ryan Petrie said.   

The city Plan Commission is scheduled to discuss the project on Jan. 3, when it will recommend whether to rezone the property where apartments would be built from one- and two-family housing to multifamily units. 

The project would require City Council approval. The council is scheduled to discuss the issue on Jan. 9 and could vote on the project the following day. 

The rezoning would be the first of several required steps for the project to occur. The developers would subsequently need site plan approval and a developers agreement to extend utilities and roads.  

S.C. Swiderski representatives were not available for comment about the project. Petrie said the developers said they believe there is more demand for quality apartments in Eau Claire, especially at the project’s location, which is near Interstate 94. 

Staff concerns

While the project is preliminary, Community Development Department staff have concerns about it, Petrie said. The city’s comprehensive plan states that commercial development, not residential, along that part of the North Crossing would be preferred. But high-density would be appropriate along Kane Road.

That plan — which outlines guidelines for future city development — envisions that site as one in which high-density development would transition into less-dense construction, such as duplexes or twin homes. 

“This may be too much density for that site,” Petrie said.  

In addition, he said, the project lacks connections to the rest of Eau Claire in that it is not on a bus line and is not close to any school. City staff also question its impact on the nearby Mill Ridge Estates Condominiums development. Homes in that development are one-story structures as opposed to the proposed three-story apartment buildings.

Apartment boom

Eau Claire already is home to high-density apartment buildings. Commonweal Development Corp. currently is building about 98 units as part of an apartment complex near Oakwood Mall, and many apartment buildings have been constructed near Target on the city’s southeast side and to the south of Golf Road. In addition, multiple apartment buildings adding about 350 units have been built in downtown Eau Claire in recent years.

The apartments boom in Eau Claire is part of a nationwide trend, driven by more young professionals seeking them as well as empty nesters and baby boomers selling homes and moving into apartments. 

“We are part of that trend,” Petrie said. “What we are seeing is more people wanting to live in new apartments.”

Eau Claire area developers confirmed that, saying demand for new, quality apartments is driving construction of those units. People ranging from millennials to senior citizens are seeking apartments, they said. 

Heartland Contractors is constructing three apartment buildings totaling 98 units at the former Hillcrest golf course in Altoona and from 2010 to 2013 built the 219-unit Prairie Park apartment complex on Eau Claire’s southeast side. 

“There certainly is demand,” Heartland Contractors vice president Bill Albright said, noting that renters of those units seek such amenities as green spaces and pickleball courts. “It used to be that people saw an apartment as a step to buying a home. Now people see apartments as their home, and they want those homes to be nice.”

Contact: 715-830-5911, julian.emerson@ecpc.com

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Eau Claire Plan Commission: Meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 3, in the council chamber at City Hall, 203 S. Farwell St.