Huebsch Building Toppled; Plans Call for Commercial Space, Condos Along Eau Claire River

Tom Giffey, photos by Andrea Paulseth

A demolition crew ripped down the Huebsch building on N. Dewey Street in downtown Eau Claire on November 29. The 20,000-square-foots brick building was building around 1907.
A demolition crew ripped down the former Huebsch building, 101 N. Dewey St., in downtown Eau Claire on Nov. 29. The 20,000-square-foot brick building was built around 1907.

The century-old former Huebsch building – a looming four-level brick structure alongside the Eau Claire River in downtown Eau Claire – was reduced to a pile of rubble Tuesday, but its prime spot at the corner of Dewey and Galloway streets likely won’t be vacant for long.

Even as the (literal) dust settled, the property’s new owners, JCAP Real Estate, were unveiling preliminary plans for as many as three mixed-use buildings on the site. The proposed development – dubbed The 101, after the property’s address – would include commercial space and condominiums, the latter an often sought-after missing element of the booming downtown residential market.

“That location is just second to none, in our opinion,” said Brian Johnson, JCAP president. “Being on the Eau Claire River and downtown, and the zoning allows for some high-density development.”

Initial conceptual site plans for the former Huebsch Building site from JCAP Real Estate. Closer look.
Initial conceptual site plans for the former Huebsch Building site from JCAP Real Estate. Closer look.

The two-acre site can accommodate about 100 condo units, Johnson said, with 30 to 40 of them per four- to six-story building. The structure closest to Dewey Street would feature about 10,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor. Johnson said his company is considering several possible tenants, including a brewpub/taproom and a café overlooking the river. The other two potential buildings would be entirely condos, he added.

JCAP owns numerous rental properties in Eau Claire, including downtown, and Johnson said some of the firm’s renters would prefer to buy condominiums downtown, but haven’t had that option. “I don’t think there’s been the right location for a condo development downtown, as well as the available land,” Johnson said. That changed when the Huebsch property went on the market earlier this year.

JCAP closed on the sale a few weeks ago, and crews began preparing the long-vacant building for demolition just before noon Tuesday. The most dramatic part of the job occurred in mid-afternoon as thousands watched online via Volume One's Facebook feed. By nightfall, the building was a massive, dusty mound of wood and brick.

An example of the kind of look JCAP Real Estate is considering for new buildings on the site.
An example of the look JCAP Real Estate is considering for new buildings on the site.

Now that the 101 N. Dewey St. property is being cleared off, it’s a prime spot for redevelopment in the burgeoning neighborhood at the intersection of Dewey and Galloway streets. Volume One and the Local Store are at the northeast corner of the intersection, while the Oxbow Hotel and the Lakely restaurant/bar opened this year at the northwest corner. In fact, the Oxbow, 516 Galloway St., will be the site of an informational session about the condo project, which will be at 6pm Monday, Jan. 9.

While the Huebsch building faced North Dewey Street, the property it sat on runs several hundred yards eastward, toward Banbury Place. This vacant land lies between a branch of the Chippewa River State Trail and the Eau Claire River. Preliminary renderings from JCAP show three buildings, oriented east to west, along the property, as well as a parking lot and green space.

The 20,000-square-foots brick building was built around 1907, and it was originally the C. Gotzian & Co. shoe factory. By 1914, it belonged to Huebsch Laundry Co. In 2002, that company, now known as Huebsch Services, relocated to a new facility on White Avenue. The following year, Jack Kaiser of Cigan Properties – which owns Banbury Place – purchased the building, but it continued to sit empty.

In mid-2015, Kaiser announced plans to renovate the building, hoping to turn it into a riverside restaurant with apartments on the upper floors. However, after work began, it was discovered in December 2015 that the building was in such poor shape that renovation wasn’t feasible.

Now that the building has been demolished, work to clean and prepare the site for construction will continue for several weeks. Johnson expects to submit site plans for approval by the Eau Claire Plan Commission around February. Pending approval from the Plan Commission, the city’s Waterways and Parks Commission, and the state, construction could begin by June 1 and units could be available for rent by the end of 2017. The project will be conducted in phases, Johnson said, and it hasn’t been determined which of the three buildings will come first.