Eau Claire is expecting another multicolored light show in July in addition to the traditional Independence Day fireworks.
Currently one downtown pedestrian bridge is lit at night with multicolored lights, but two more will have the capability to do that by this summer, based on the city’s schedule.
“It’s our hope to have everything operational in July,” city engineer David Solberg said.
Since October 2017, the Phoenix Park bridge has had nightly light shows via arrays of computer-controlled LEDs that change color. A new pedestrian bridge installed last summer that spans the Eau Claire River from Phoenix Park to Haymarket Plaza has lights attached to it, but they haven’t been programmed and turned on yet.
Lights will be added to the Grand Avenue pedestrian bridge next month after materials delays prevented the installation last summer when the bridge got a new deck, Solberg said. Using a special vehicle that will drive on the bridge and extend a work platform underneath it, workers will attach the lights used to illuminate its piers in June.
“This is the safest, cheapest route to get the lights installed,” Solberg said.
That will mean periodic closures of the bridge next month, prompting pedestrians and bicyclists to detour to other bridges across the Chippewa River.
Workers also are continuing work to complete Haymarket Plaza, a public gathering space in front of the Pablo Center of the Confluence. Among the finishing touches will be adding a fountain and fire feature.
Though an exact date has not been set because high water and weather can impact the projects, Solberg said the city does plan to have the plaza open and bridges completed sometime in July.
A volunteer fundraising effort paid the $400,000 cost to add the lighting system for the Phoenix Park bridge. Software company Jamf’s co-founder Zach Halmstad donated $110,000 for lights on the Confluence bridge. The city is paying about $158,400 to add the multicolored lighting to the Grand Avenue bridge.
All three bridges will be able to have coordinated light shows, Solberg said, but that will require additional programming after the equipment is up and running.
Grand Avenue work
The pedestrian bridge isn’t the only part of Grand Avenue that’s getting a facelift.
Two blocks of West Grand Avenue are under construction and are slated to reopen this summer.
Located along the north side of the county courthouse and in a small business district, the roadwork will wrap up in late July or early August.
“It’s going to be beautiful when it’s done,” said Debra Retallick, owner of Grand Avenue Cafe, 119 W. Grand Ave.
Since the block in front of her restaurant was torn up earlier this month, Retallick has noticed a slowdown in business. Regular customers have continued coming to the cafe, but she said others have likely avoided the area due to the road construction.
“We’re here if you can find us,” Retallick said cheerfully.
The cafe did close for one day on May 15 while a new sidewalk was being poured in front of it, but it was open the next day.
While customers she talks to have told her the construction isn’t much of an impediment to them, Retallick is eager for it to wrap up.
A small unnamed park just north of the west end of the Grand Avenue bridge also will get attention this summer. Currently a few benches, trees and a covered picnic table, the spot will get a new retaining wall, ramp and permanent seating. That project is not yet bid, but Solberg said construction is anticipated to happen in July into early August.