The future owners of the vacant County Annex in downtown Casper see potential for upscale apartments in the boarded-up building at the corner of David and First streets.

Eager to get the century-old structure off its hands, the Natrona County Commission on Tuesday approved a resolution supporting the sale of the County Annex to a Rapid City, S.D., development firm for $200,000.

"We're going to bring back more of the historic features of the building," said Peter Anderson, partner at McCarthy Properties LLC, the building's buyer. The dozen or so one- and two-bedroom apartments Anderson plans to construct will feature exposed brick, original glass and as many hardwood floors as possible.

Natrona County Property Manager Don Herbort said any major renovation to the building will require an asbestos cleanup; Herbort couldn't say exactly how much asbestos lined the structure, but called it "not a large amount."

The asbestos will be completely taken care of, Anderson said, and was a flaw easily outweighed by the lure of the building's downtown location and solid structure.

Anderson hopes the roughly three-month design process will start once the sale with Broker One Real Estate is final in seven to 10 days. Construction could start as early as this summer, he said. 

"We look to go right into it as soon as design's done," Anderson said.

McCarthy Properties has outfitted similar historic buildings in Rapid City and Brookings, S.D., and is considering office space and street level stores to accompany its plan for upstairs apartments.

Built in 1909, the four-story building at 120 W. First St. has been vacant since 2010, when the newly built Townsend Justice Center opened office space in the courthouse and Hall of Justice for public defenders and the Natrona County Planning Department -- departments previously housed in the County Annex.

Today, the last remnants of county storage have been cleared from its vacant halls. 

"It's entirely empty, ready for sale," Natrona County Property Manager Don Herbort said.

Commissioner Terry Wingerter opposed the sale Tuesday, saying the building -- and the downtown lot it sits on -- could still prove an asset to the county in the years to come.

"I think that land is too valuable for this county to let go," Wingerter said during discussion at the commission's afternoon work session Tuesday. He suggested holding onto the property until the county could raze the building and construct a parking garage in its stead.

But most commissioners expressed relief that the building was now off their hands.

"I think it's been an asset, but it's become a liability," Commissioner Matt Keating said. "Tearing it down brings a whole myriad of other issues with it."

Estimates on the cost of tearing down the County Annex ranged from $500,000 to $700,000, Commissioner Rob Hendry said.  The commission had allocated $750,000 in 1-cent sales tax funding for the building's demolition. That amount will now return to the 1-cent general fund, said commission Chairman Bill McDowell.

Reach county reporter Leah Todd at 307-266-0592 or leah.todd@trib.com. Follow her on Twitter @leahktodd.

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