Here Comes Minneapolis?
I can’t say I’m surprised to learn that one of the new apartment complexes in downtown Eau Claire, Wisconsin, will cost you between 900 bucks for a 400-square-foot studio (no parking) and $2,750. for an 1,156-square-foot two-bedroom, two-bathroom unit with a balcony, river views and a parking stall. The only surprise I feel is because I inquired about this same building just four months ago, and received this reply:
“Our apartment sizes will range from 400–980 sq ft, and the price range will be $850-$1,700. We will release floor plans and more information about the units at the beginning of 2022.”
So now we get that “more information,” which might be more accurately dubbed “different information” or “actual information.” Okay.
Get Dat Minneapolis Money
If you skim back over news articles from the past few years about all the new development going on downtown, you’ll probably see arguments about how what Eau Claire needs is new housing across *all* price points, not just the ones people desperately need. You’ll see something about how developers can’t possibly build cheaper stuff because materials are expensive, or because it’s not cost-effective for them, with the subtext being that they just don’t want to. Fair enough. I don’t want to pay my mortgage, either, and if I didn’t have to, I wouldn’t. But what you also see is this forecast of a tsunami of Minneapolis transplants fleeing the racial protests of the summer of 2020, fleeing the rents of Minneapolis, or just fleeing Minneapolis in general. And we are going to catch them here in Eau Claire with these really nice new units that cost basically the same as rents as Minneapolis. Sounds good. Don’t tell them about the meth.
Here’s the Problem
Maybe we’ll get some of those people, I don’t know. But the issue I’m seeing is that the people I think they think they’re going to get are also the people who are least likely to leave Minneapolis for any reason. And maybe that’s okay. These are the white, wealthy-leaning progressive Minneapolis residents who are mostly single, male, young, ride their bikes everywhere, and are maybe ready to start a tech business or five. The ones I know like that — bikes and gender aside — are *very* proud of living in Minneapolis, and are prone to saying things like “we need to do better” about the racial problems there, or any other problem, when what they really mean is “you need to do better.” They like the beer, they like the coffee, they are *very* happy with their friend groups, and they think Minneapolis is a magical place filled with all the right people. Also, the Vikings. Are they really going to move to *Wisconsin* and tell their friends about it? Are they ready to own Aaron Rodgers? I doubt it.
The People Here
Meanwhile I have friends here in that same “creative class” who have already decamped to Chippewa Falls and Altoona because it’s slightly more affordable there. They have full-time jobs. They have kids. And Eau Claire just isn’t going to work for them anymore. I hear rumblings of others who are probably going to do the same. These people include key members of our apparently beloved literary and musical communities that are now such an integral part of the Eau Claire brand — the very reason that people from Minneapolis might even start to consider living here for a hot second. So we’re luring people here with the promise of this tremendous creative community while pricing all those artists out farther and farther. It’s a story as old as time. Will Chippewa become the Brooklyn of the Chippewa Valley? Or will it be Fall Creek, or maybe Altoona? We’ll soon find out, I imagine. (My guess is Chippewa).
I Reject the Privilege Disclaimer
Here is the part where I’m supposed to let everybody know that I speak from a place of privilege, living in an actual house in the university-adjacent neighborhood that everybody loves to hate because people here are smart, if not exactly rich. But fuck that, I’m not going to. I didn’t buy a house until my mid-forties and I’m still always one job loss away from selling this place in a heartbeat. Plus I just had to borrow from my 401K to replace an ancient boiler that tried to kill me with carbon monoxide gas. This is why I ocasionally inquire about local apartment living. I miss the simplicity. Maybe I’ll still do it again someday. I can’t do it with two dogs, that’s for sure. But it’s looking more and more like if that day ever comes, it’s not going to be in Eau Claire. I’ll let the Minneapolis tech guys on bikes do their thing. Welcome.