From a brownfield to a community park that is now a regional destination for visitors, Phoenix Park illustrates the potential of strategic investment in public space as a catalyst for economic development. Located in downtown Eau Claire at the intersection of two rivers, this linear waterfront park offers river access, fishing, tubing, a regional bike system trailhead, concerts, and a thrice weekly farmer’s market.
The City of Eau Claire retained the team of SAA Design Group, Ayres Associates, and Ed Farr Architects to assist with the public participation, design, bidding, and construction of the 9-acre Phoenix Park portion of the North Barstow redevelopment area and tax incremental financing District 8. The City secured many grants for the project before pulling in the design team.
SAA, which is now part of Ayres Associates, carried out master planning for this visionary project, and Ayres provided demolition plans, design of a new street (Riverfront Terrace) and North Barstow Street, permitting and approval assistance (including Chapter 30 permit and floodway related issues), hydrology and hydraulics analysis, stormwater system collection and quality design, specification preparation, shoreline bank stabilization and vegetation, construction cost estimation, and bidding and construction phase assistance.
The Riverfront Terrace design included a new concrete road with parallel and diagonal parking and a tabletop pedestrian feature. The project included design for reconstruction of a section of North Barstow Street. Shoreline design on the Chippewa and Eau Claire Rivers included regrading existing riprap areas, adding new riprap for stabilization, and designing toe stabilization features for the fishing wall on the Eau Claire River. In coordination with the landscape architect, Ayres Associates proposed native prairie seed mix over topsoil to cover the riprap on the upper portions of the riverbanks.
As the first public investment in the North Barstow Redevelopment Area, the park has been a catalyst for office development, new housing, restaurants, and neighborhood retail. Named for the mythical phoenix bird and the former Phoenix Steel Company that occupied the site, this urban brownfield has become a center for community celebrations or a quiet escape to the water.
The project was awarded a 2008 General Design Award of Excellence from the Wisconsin Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects and a 2007 Park Design Award of Excellence from the Wisconsin Park and Recreation Association.