EAU CLAIRE — A Minneapolis firm plans to build a large apartment building for people 55 and older in Eau Claire’s Cannery District.
Pete Jesh, managing partner of Silver Creek Equity, told Eau Claire’s Redevelopment Authority that the firm’s market research shows there’s a desire for apartments in Eau Claire made for that age group.
“We’ve seen a lot of demand,” he said via teleconference during the RDA Board’s Wednesday morning meeting.
The company that specializes in senior living and multifamily buildings has a 110-unit building under construction in Chanhassen, Minn., that is similar to what is envisioned in Eau Claire, Jesh said.
Designs for the five-story building in the Cannery District have 136 apartments — a mix of one-bedroom and two-bedroom units, some of them with dens. A parking garage that will be partially underground will be underneath the apartment building. Jesh said the project’s designers are looking to add pickleball courts and a picnic area next to the building.
The company’s preliminary estimate is the building will be worth about $26 million.
On Wednesday, the RDA Board unanimously decided to enter into a 90-day memorandum of understanding with Silver Creek Equity. That document will give the developer three months of exclusivity to the property while it can continue to refine details of the project, leading up to a potential development agreement and land purchase.
The selected site for the building is about 2.5 acres in area between First Street and a recreational trail that borders the Chippewa River. The land is at the east end of Cedar Street and just south of the High Bridge pedestrian bridge.
Aaron White, the city’s economic development manager, said Silver Creek Equity spoke to the RDA in a closed-session meeting in December, which resulted in some changes to an earlier design for the building. Jesh noted that one of the aspects from that prior plan that has been cut was a memory care portion of the project.
The Cannery District has been attracting new apartment buildings catering to a range of potential tenants.
Duluth, Minn.-based P&R Companies got the city’s approval this winter to build a pair of five-story buildings on vacant land in the Cannery District. Between those two buildings there will be 266 apartments and 20,000-square-feet of commercial space.
W Capital Group opened its first building of apartment complex The Current in fall 2020 with rents set at market rate. The second building planned at The Current is set to have apartments affordable for people with lower incomes.
Housing plan changes
An Eau Claire company proposed changes to its plans for owner-occupied homes it intends to build on a currently vacant block in the Cannery District.
GRIP Development is going from 26 dwellings down to 24 now envisioned for the 1.9-acre parcel at the northwest corner of First and Cedar streets. That small “pocket neighborhood” was initially planned with a private drive inside it, but the layout of the lots has been reconfigured to reduce costs tied to paving and maintenance.
The housing is now proposed to be a combination of two-story twin homes and rowhouses. Under these designs, residents would share common walls, but each have ownership of their individual home, attached garage and the land underneath it.
“We don’t want these to be rentals. We want these to be owned by people in our market who have been struggling to find homes,” said Mary Proznik, a broker with GRIP.
Looking to fit budgets of first-time homebuyers, the project initially had hoped to get some of its homes priced just under $200,000, but she said rising costs have ruled that out.
“Unless building costs come down dramatically, that’s not an option,” she said.
The homes planned there are now expected to be in the price range of $225,000 to $285,000, Proznik said.
Homes included in the earlier plan had about 1,500 square feet of living space and the proposed changes bump them up to 1,700 square feet.
Following GRIP’s presentation of its revised plan, the RDA Board went into closed session to discuss the developer’s proposed changes. When the meeting returned to open session, the board did not vote on GRIP’s changes. White said board members instead asked RDA staff to have discussions with GRIP about bringing back features of earlier designs for the small neighborhood’s layout.
The RDA first began talking with GRIP about the project in late 2019. That led to a March 2021 land sale with GRIP paying $80,000 for the parcel and the RDA providing a $7,000 land credit to help defray the developer’s costs for removing trees and preparing the site. The land deal requires GRIP to build at least $3.5 million worth of new homes there. On Wednesday, Proznik said the estimated value of the new homes is over $6 million.