Blugold Real Estate Foundation, Inc. is the legal owner of all real estate acquired for the benefit of UW-Eau Claire. Blugold Real Estate was organized by the UW-Eau Claire Foundation in 2015 and is tax exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Blugold Real Estate was created to serve as a supporting organization for the UW-Eau Claire Foundation to receive gifts of real estate, purchase and develop real estate, and/or hold real estate for investment or future development that will benefit the university.
Blugold Real Estate Projects
In October 2011, Blugold Real Estate purchased the Priory (located three miles south of the main campus), a former monastery housing the St. Benedictine order of nuns. The Priory includes three buildings totaling more than 80,000 square feet and 112 acres of primarily wooded land in a pristine location.
The Children’s Nature Academy (university childcare center) occupies approximately 30% of the space. There also are 54 single occupancy residence hall rooms located there, where students who welcome the natural setting can choose to live. The State of Wisconsin leases the entire Priory for the university’s benefit.
In 2011, Blugold Real Estate entered into a partnership with Mar-Com, a local developer and contractor to purchase buildings and land at the confluence of the Eau Claire and Chippewa Rivers in downtown Eau Claire. In May 2012, the group announced plans to build the Confluence Arts Center, a community/university arts center, as well as a student housing/retail/retail complex.
Haymarket Landing, the mixed-use project at the Confluence, was completed and opened for student housing in August 2016. The complex can house up to 400 students in apartments with various room configurations. The State of Wisconsin leases the residences on behalf of the university to help address the university’s chronic shortage of university managed student housing.
The Confluence Arts Center (now known as the Pablo Center at the Confluence) opened to the public in September 2018. As a true public-private partnership, the state of Wisconsin provided a $15 million grant, the city of Eau Claire and Eau Claire County provided a total of $8.5 million and philanthropy accounted for more than $22 million. New market tax credits, revenue and grant funding also are part of the funding mix. The Pablo Center is owned by Eau Claire Arts, Inc., a non-profit, non-stock corporation, while the day-to-day management is overseen by the Confluence Council. Both organizations are populated by volunteers and representatives from the city of Eau Claire, university, developer and the arts community. The university has a 20-year use agreement regarding dedicated space in the building for theater classes and faculty who have located there.
The Haymarket development prompted more than $100 million in new construction in downtown Eau Claire and has been a catalyst for the rebirth and re-energizing of the City of Eau Claire. Numerous positive articles about Eau Claire focus on the growth of a vibrant music and arts scene that will find its major home at the Pablo Center for the Arts.
In August 2014, the Foundation and University announced plans for John and Carolyn Sonnentag to give property they owned on Menomonie Street as the site of a new events and recreation complex. This project addresses a priority in the Campus Master Plan to replace Zorn Arena. The Sonnentags and their business, County Materials Corp., also assisted in the acquisition of the Student Transit property between County Materials and Hobbs Ice Arena, which they donated to the Blugold Real Estate Foundation, Inc. BGRE purchased additional land next to the County Materials site to create a development footprint of nearly 30 acres of riverfront property.
The Sonnentag Complex project, which will include a major event facility, fitness facility, artificially-turfed fieldhouse, and a Mayo Clinic Health System clinical location, is a public-private partnership taking advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve western Wisconsin’s capacity to host large events. UW-Eau Claire students resoundingly supporting the project in an April 2021 referendum vote, which the UW System Board of Regents ratified in July 2021. The Foundation entered into an agreement to establish the Eau Claire Community Complex, Inc., which is the developer of the project and will become owner of buildings on the site. Blugold Real Estate, the City of Eau Claire, Visit Eau Claire, Mayo Clinic Health System, UW-Eau Claire students, and university administration are working with Eau Claire Community Complex, Inc. to move design and construction plans forward. In July of 2021, the Board of Regents gave UW-Eau Claire permission to enter into a lease agreement with the organization to ensure student access to the facility.
Grants from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and the EPA provided nearly $1 million to help fund the demolition of buildings and site cleanup and remediation. Many of the buildings were demolished by the end of 2017, and remaining site work and construction will commence in the spring of 2022.
In July 2016, the Blugold Real Estate Foundation purchased three historic homes located on State Street between Garfield and Summit Avenues. These properties border the campus at the Hibbard parking lot area. The purpose of this purchase is to provide housing for visiting faculty and staff, as well as possibly temporary housing for new faculty/staff.
In 2017, the Blugold Real Estate Foundation purchased three floors of a mixed-use apartment building under construction on Water Street. Construction was completed in August 2017 in time for the opening of the 2017-18 academic year. The Foundation contracted with the university to manage the Aspenson Mogensen Apartments at 222 Water Street. The apartments house 201 students and include similar amenities to Haymarket Landing. These apartments also provide another alternative to address the shortage of housing for students.
Executive Director: Kimera Way
President: Neil Lipinski
Vice President: Charlie Bauer
Secretary: Terry McMahon
Treasurer: Coby Kohn
Board of Directors + Officers
Charlie Bauer, Vice President
Altoona, WI, Retired
William "Chops" Hancock , Director
Winona, MN, Retired
Patti Lien, Director
Eau Claire, WI, Retired
Neil Lipinski, '80, President
Irvington, NY, Owner, Lipinski Real Estate Advisors LLC
Terry McMahon, ’78, Secretary
Milwaukee, WI, Co-Owner/Principal, Boerke Company
Barry Moullet, '83, Director
New Smyrna Beach, FL, Retired
Steve Semingson '68 , Director
Huntington Beach, CA, President, Civic Partners Inc.