Local Current Blog

Here’s how Justin Vernon’s boutique hotel in Eau Claire will look

All renderings by Shelter Architecture

Justin Vernon, real estate mogul? Not quite, but the Bon Iver leader is one of a quartet of Eau Claire entrepreneurs who are developing the Oxbow Hotel — a property described by its architects as “a boutique hotel property” that “remakes the run-down Green Tree Inn complex on Galloway Street in downtown Eau Claire as a hospitality destination.”

Shelter Architecture, the firm designing the new hotel, has released its designs for the new hotel. In a press release, the firm says that the hotel — slated to open in summer 2016 — will have “30 custom guest rooms, a music lounge, an in-house bar and restaurant, and a recreation outfitter.” Further, “the Oxbow’s signature music lounge, bar and restaurant will feature a locally-sourced menu and custom-mixed drink selections.”

“We want to make a place in Eau Claire where our rich tradition of jazz can meet with other types of improvised performances and songwriting. Where we put the emphasis on cultivating a calendar of quality music appreciation,” Vernon told Volume One. “Imagine on a Tuesday seeing some of the region’s best jazz players together on stage. Or on a Wednesday, a group of us spinning obscure and amazing country 78 records from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. Thursday, maybe a squad of solo songwriters. It’s all in the mix.”

Vernon’s partners in the enterprise are Eau Claire Regional Arts Council director Ben Richgruber; JAMF Software co-founder Zach Halmstead; and Volume One publisher Nick Meyer. The project is supported by a half-million-dollar grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, and the partners hope to have the hotel open for business in time for next year’s Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival (Aug. 12-13).

Chef Nathan Berg will lead the regionally-themed restaurant, which will feature a craft cocktail menu developed by Marvel Bar’s Megan Arts. An artist-in-residence program “will be provided with a fishbowl-style workspace,” according to Volume One. It gets even better: every room will have its own record player, and guests will be able to borrow albums from a vinyl library in the lobby.

This is just one of the Eau Claire development projects being supported by Vernon, who’s also involved with the development of the Confluence: a multi-million-dollar arts complex being planned along the banks of the Chippewa River. Shelter Architecture, a Minneapolis firm, should be familiar to local culture vultures: they were responsible for the designs of Icehouse, Bauhaus Brew Labs, and several light rail stations.

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