New city developments in the Chippewa Valley

What are the piles of dirt in downtown Eau Claire?


Grace Olson


As one walks through downtown Eau Claire they can see a lot of construction happening but may wonder what exactly is being built.


Aaron White, the Eau Claire development manager said, there are many new projects taking place that will finish within the next year.


The Andante project is a mixed-use development that will include 76 residential units, is moving along well and is expected to be completed summer of 2022, White said.


The Andante project is located at 100 N. Farwell St. and will include 8,000 square feet of commercial space that will be available to lease.


Close by, the Children’s Museum of Eau Claire is also getting ready to break ground on their new building at 100 N. Barstow St, White said. This project will start to move forward in October of this year.


For the time being, the public is welcome to visit the Children’s Museum at their temporary location of 40 S. Barstow St.


Marianne Klinkhammer, the president of the museum’s board of directors, said the new museum is an investment into the revitalization of downtown Eau Claire.


Also in downtown Eau Claire, the transit center project is starting to break ground and is moving forward well, White said.


The new transit center is not moving and will still be on the ground floor but it will eventually contain retail space. The new addition will be above the center and will include a parking garage and housing.


Dave Solberg, the interim city manager, said the project will cost around $7 million, $5 million of which will come from a federal grant and should open in late 2022.


On Farwell St, the developer JCAP construction is continuing to work on their Mason square project. This project was going to originally include senior living, but has now shifted to be apartments for the general public.


Eau Claire isn’t the only city that has new projects on the way. Brad Hentschel, the city planner for Chippewa Falls, said they have had a good record of growth for the past couple of years.

Hentschel said the biggest project of note just hit the ground – the Mason Companies project. This project is taking place in the Lake Wissota Business Park and will include four phases.


The project will be a 425,000 square foot manufacturing and logistics center for the team which is what the first phase includes, Hentschel said.


The next three phases will expand to 975,000 square feet and will include corporate offices for the team.


Hentschel said another project includes the tiny home community – Hope Village – who had purchased land to create a rehabilitation building and a community center.


“We work collaboratively with them and the state of Wisconsin to get a grant to help them have somewhat of a campus area and better serve their community needing their services,” he said.


White said some of the projects in Eau Claire did start before the COVID-19 pandemic but had to be delayed because they didn’t know how the economy was going to react.


Some projects were also delayed because of the cost increase of construction materials in June of this year, White said.


Despite these delays, White said there has been a lot of interest from the community and they are excited to see what other projects come down the road.


Olson can be reached at olsongm1225@uwec.edu






Update on Eau Claire Teen Forced Into Quarantine


Grace Olson


A 14-year old Eau Claire high school freshman who refused to quarantine last week and was set to appear in court, had the case dropped after she presented a negative test.


Pixie Busse went to her classes inside Eau Claire Memorial last Thursday after being told she would have to quarantine following a classmate testing positive.


Kita Busse, Pixie’s mother, says her daughter was back in school Tuesday afternoon.


There was also an email sent out to the entire school district stating the school’s will no longer be responsible for COVID-19 contact tracing.


Instead, the Eau Claire City-County Health Department will be tracing positive COVID-19 cases in schools and contacting parents on quarantine requirements.


Olson can be reached at Olsongm1225@uwec.edu.




14 year old Memorial student refuses to quarantine

High school student ordered to court to quarantine if she receives a positive COVID-19 test result


Grace Olson


A 14 year old Memorial high school freshman who recently refused to quarantine from school, is set to appear before an Eau Claire County judge this week, the family says.


The story calls into question why a family is surprised despite knowingly defying a request. At the same time it also raises doubts as to the amount of pressure Lieske Giese is wielding towards organizations and businesses and the difficulty everyone from those leaders to even local police departments navigating it all.


Karen Busse, whose daughter Pixie attends Memorial High School in Eau Claire, says her daughter was deemed a “close contact” of another student who tested positive for COVID-19 in September. Since her daughter has not received a COVID-19, they received notification that Pixie would need to quarantine.


However, citing “natural immunity” Busse allowed her daughter to defy the quarantine request and attempt to attend classes last Thursday.


“She loves school, she’s very social, she loves to learn,” Busse said. “She reads a lot of non- fiction books outside of school and watches documentaries.”  Pixie  herself adds she is tired of her classmates not taking a stand against mask mandates and vaccinations.


Before sending her daughter to school, Bussey said she did call the Eau Claire police to ask if her daughter would get into any legal trouble. She says, the Eau Claire police told her that no laws were being broken.


Bussey also says she called Memorial High School ahead of time to let them know that unless there was a physician's affidavit and a court order in place for Pixie to quarantine, she would be attending.


It was at this point the family received a call from Lieske Giese, the director of the Eau Claire City-County Health Department, who threatened legal action against Pixie if the quarantine request wasn’t followed and she entered the building.


Eau Claire School District and superintendent Michael Johnson declined to comment to Eau Claire Hometown Media for this report. Instead deferring any comment on this situation to the local health department.


Audrey Boerner, the public information officer for the COVID-19 response team, said the Eau Claire City-County health department provided Eau Claire Hometown Media with this statement:


“Quarantine is required by state law for anyone who is exposed to COVID-19 and is not fully vaccinated. The Health Department continues to support vaccination (for those eligible) as a way to prevent serious illness from COVID-19 and eliminate the need to quarantine after a vaccinated individual has been exposed.”


Despite the warning from Giese, Bussey allowed her daughter to attempt to attend classes last Thursday.  Upon arriving at school and entering a class, Pixie she was told she needed to see the principal, who met her at that classroom, while the teacher at the time moved all other students to another classroom.


Bussey said the principal, Dave Oldenberg, and Pixie spent some time discussing her decision and once the bell rang, she started to walk to her next class.


For the remainder of the school day, Pixie was allowed to be in class as long as she sat in the back distanced from other students.


Bussey then claims Oldenberg called Giese to ask for guidance who then came to Memorial high school with four armed policemen, to escort Pixie home.


Lieutenant of the Eau Claire Police, Ben Fredrick, inferred no such incident occurred, saying the police department had no contact with Bussey or Pixie. He didn’t elaborate.


At this point, Busse says she received a phone call from Oldenburg who said she needed to pick up her daughter and discuss the situation with Giese and the superintendent Michael Johnson.


During this meeting Busse was given a petition to a court order and an electronically signed court order to quarantine signed by Eau Claire County Judge Sarah Harless.


Immediately after the meeting Pixie quarantined at home. That same night Busse said she was emailed another court order for her daughter to appear to court at 8 a.m. the following Monday, Oct. 5.


Bussey said they weren’t able to find a lawyer in time before court, so she called the clerk of courts to try to get an extension so they could find a lawyer.


The court date was pushed back by one day to 8 a.m. on Tuesday over Zoom.


Busse said Pixie will be getting tested for COVID-19 and will be able to return to school if she receives a negative result.


Pixie said she refused to quarantine because she was tired of seeing no other children taking a stand against having to wear a mask during school or become vaccinated.


Busse said her and Pixie will be holding a peaceful protest outside of the Eau Claire county court house at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 6.


Olson can be reached at olsongm1225@uwec.edu.



UWEC students continue to have issues finding a spot to park

Students feel the university and city need to work together to create more student parking


By: Grace Olson


UW-Eau Claire students are no stranger to a difficult parking situation. With no parking structure, limited parking passes and street parking filling up by 9:30am, students are struggling to make it to class on time. 


Brandon Koran, a fourth-year social broad field student, said because of the difficulty of finding a spot to park, he often is late to class.


“I usually leave for my 9:30am class at least 30 minutes before it starts but by the time I find a parking spot and walk to my class I am either walking into it right as the class starts or I am late,” Koran said. “I don't live very far from campus either.”


The current options for students to park are in the Haas Fine Arts Center, Hilltop Center, Governors Hall, Murray Hall, Phillips Hall, Schneider Hall, Towers Circle, University Drive, Hibbard Hall and The Priory, through the AMP app with it being $1 for an hour, according to the university’s website


There is also street parking available around lower campus and on Water St. 


Even with these options Sarah Helvick, a third-year special education major, said she struggles to find a spot close enough to campus. 


Helvick said she currently has a broken foot and has had to walk nearly miles, on crutches, because she could not find a closer spot to park. 


“It’s just not fair for anybody,” Helvick said. “I have heard so many stories of people who park miles from campus to avoid any fees or tickets.” 


Helvick also said she knows numerous students who had troubles being able to purchase a parking permit because of limited permits and issues with the website. 


Sydney Martin, a music education student, said they had issues when attempting to purchase a parking permit.


“I was not able to get a permit due to the school’s failure to set up the sign up day for parking correctly and failure to provide more permits and spots for students,” Martin said. 


On August 10, students who attempted to purchase a parking permit through the parking portal were met with issues such as the website crashing and many were not able to purchase a permit. 


The university apologized and sent those students an email on August 12 with details of reopening permit sales. 


As of Wednesday, Sep. 22, seven of the 13 options of parking passes are sold out including the activity lot, Aspenson Mogenson, Bollinger, underground Haymarket and the residence hall permits. 


Helvick said there needs to be active participation from UWEC as well as the city of Eau Claire to fix the limited parking. 


“Either working with the city to provide more streets for free parking for students, or increasing the number of parking spots on both lower and upper campus,” Helvick said. “The city and the university have been very quiet about the whole situation, which bothers many students including me.” 


Koran similarly said there should be more parking available on lower campus and less parking restrictions on streets near the UWEC campus. He also said he thinks either a new parking lot or parking ramp would help the issue as well. 


Koran said over the course of his time here at UWEC parking has always been an issue. 


“I've been here for four years and during those four years, a lot has changed, a new dorm hall, a new welcome center, a water feature, the walkway by the Chippewa, but the one constant all these years? Is the parking issue,” Koran said. 


Although this has been an issue for years, Helvick said she would like to thank those who have helped her while her broken foot heals. 


“Those who hold the doors open for me, those who offer to take my plates to the plate corral, those who ask if I need help, those who drive me to class, those who advocate for myself and others,” Helvick said. “Students like these really make this campus shine.”


Olson can be reached at olsongm1225@uwec.edu

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