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Confluence owner seeks to replace damaged retaining wall

By: Matt Taub, [email protected]//April 24, 2015//

Confluence owner seeks to replace damaged retaining wall

By: Matt Taub, [email protected]//April 24, 2015//

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A portion of an older retaining wall that runs along the Eau Claire River is cracked Tuesday and a newer portion of retaining wall was removed at the Haymarket Landing site in Eau Claire. Haymarket Concepts LLC has applied for an expedited permit so its engineer, Ayres Associates, can replace the retaining wall at the site. (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

The owner of one of the buildings making up Eau Claire’s Confluence Project has applied for an expedited permit to replace a nearby river retaining wall that buckled and failed following demolition work at the development’s site.

On April 16, Haymarket Concepts LLC and engineering firm Ayres Associates applied for an expedited permit to replace the retaining wall, which runs along the Eau Claire River near the site of the Haymarket Landing development, a $35.5 million, six-story building that is to contain nearly 120 apartments and space for shops and restaurants. Officials at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources have responded to the company’s permit request by asking for designs and other information.

Once DNR officials have those submissions in hand, they will have between 40 and 50 days to review the permit request and notify the public of the plans.

The construction of Haymarket Landing, at 2 S. Bartow St. in Eau Claire, got underway late last year. The project has been planned in conjunction with the Confluence Project’s proposed arts center, a $40 million to $50 million development that, once built, will contain three theaters, art classrooms and space for similar purposes.

Even as the Haymarket Landing developers are asking for the DNR’s permission to knock down the river retaining wall, they have had parts of an upper retaining wall demolished. That wall, built above the original one as part of the Haymarket Landing project, also began to show signs of damage in recent weeks.

Voters with Facts, a local group that has expressed concerns with the current plans for the Confluence Project, is contending that city officials approved the construction of the upper wall even though cracks were forming in the lower one. In a message posted on Facebook on Thursday, the group wrote that both the Eau Claire city manager and officials in the city engineer’s office had been told by citizens in October that the retaining wall was showing signs of damage, “but nevertheless decided to proceed with the project knowing full well that the developer planned to build a wall on top of the cracked one.”

Russell Van Gompel, Eau Claire city manager, disputed that account and noted that Haymarket Landing is not a public project.

“I don’t know who those citizens would be,” he said. “Regardless, it’s a private project, not a city project. It’s privately owned, right up to the river.”

Van Gompel said the owner and developers of Haymarket Landing followed normal procedures and submitted plans to the city before beginning construction. If the developers have now run into a serious obstacle, Van Gompel said, they are the ones who must find a way to overcome it.

In photos taken by Voters With Facts on July 24, before work started on Haymarket Landing, few signs of damage appear in the lower wall along the Eau Claire River. But a later image, captured during demolition, shows cracks beginning to develop. In a still later photograph, the wall appears to be buckling.

Matt Faulkner, executive vice president and senior project manager at Market & Johnson Inc., the construction manager for the Haymarket Landing project, said members of Voters With Facts are making baseless claims.

“They allege a lot of things,” Faulkner said. “The lower wall — we have photographs of it from before construction all the way through construction. No additional cracks were created in this 100-year-old wall by our work. Any cracks were there prior to us starting.”

Faulkner added that the Haymarket building itself remains structurally sound, and will not be affected by the damage to the river retaining wall.

Haymarket Concepts LLC and Ericksen Roed & Associates, an engineering firm hired to design the upper wall, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.


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