Three local entrepreneurs hope to buy city-owned buildings in downtown Casper, potentially bringing a bakery, an apparel company or more apartments to the neighborhood surrounding a new public plaza.
The sale of the buildings, which sit along Ash Street north of Midwest Avenue, could trigger more development in the core of the city’s revitalized downtown, which has become home recently to an artists’ guild and several new bars and restaurants.
The Downtown Development Authority’s CEO, however, has cautioned city leaders against making a hasty decision about selling the properties, whose value could change as the David Street Station is expanded next year.
City officials bought the buildings last year with no exact plans for their use. In the recent past, the city has purchased other buildings and then sold them to be developed into new businesses.
At a City Council work session Tuesday, the three entrepreneurs laid out their visions for the Ash Street properties.
Food, retail and housing
The owner of Frosted Tops said she wants to purchase the former Milo’s Toyota body shop because her bakery — currently located at Parkway Plaza — needs a larger space to grow.
Frosted Tops sells assorted desserts and plans to add coffee and ice cream to the menu, said owner Kirstin Bott.
“This business started out as an act of love for my family,” she said, explaining that she always bakes treats for her relatives on special occasions.
Bott passed out French macaroons, much to the delight of Council members.
“You made my day sweeter,” said Councilman Dallas Laird.
The owner of Ashby Construction also hopes to purchase the former body shop. David Kelley said he would use the building as office space for his own company, but then plans to build three other buildings beside it, which he would rent out as apartments and retail space.
From electricians and painters to lumber suppliers, Kelley said he would hire locally while working on the project. With 14 years of experience running the construction company, he said he's ready to start working.
“Our ability to act on this is not a problem,” he said.
Scott Cotton, a co-owner of 1890 Inc., said he hopes to purchase the former Ka-Larks gymnastics studio because his custom apparel store needs more space to meet customer demands.
The business sold thousands of shirts during the eclipse, but could have sold more if it was able to house more equipment, he explained.
The company also plans to become a full outdoor retail brand, according to Cotton.
The anticipated revenue from the sale of the properties is estimated at $850,000, according to a recent memo from Community Development Director Liz Becher.
Although he admired all of the proposed ideas, Kevin Hawley, the Downtown Development Authority’s CEO, advised the Council to press pause on this process.
Given that all three properties are located near the David Street Station, a plaza which offers an outdoor stage and space for recreational activities, Hawley said it would be difficult to overestimate their value to the city.
The city is planning on expanding the station next year, which could potentially change the properties’ appraisals, added Hawley.
The DDA opened the David Street Station in August with the hopes that the downtown plaza would encourage new businesses to pop up in the surrounding area. And that plans appears to be working. Several new businesses have opened in the surrounding blocks including Racca’s Pizzeria Napoletana, Urban Bottle and The Gaslight Social bar.
City leaders should also consider keeping the properties and using them to address any of Casper’s ongoing concerns, such as downtown parking, said Hawley.
Council members thanked Hawley and the applicants for their presentations, and said they will carefully consider all options.
Laird said deciding the future of the buildings would be difficult.
“The future of the city, when it comes to this, is in our hands,” he said. “I love these young people who are on fire.”
The Council plans to discuss the presentations again at a Nov. 28 work session, said Jolene Martinez, special projects coordinator with the Public Services Department.