The Plains Furniture property block in downtown Casper could be transformed into an open-air market surrounded by little boutique shops—or it could be completely demolished and turned into a parking lot.
Maybe even something in between.
All options are still on the table for the city-owned property, and Casper’s leaders want to hear from residents before deciding its future. A public hearing on the matter will be held during tonight’s City Council meeting.
“I hope we get some good feedback from the community,” said Councilman Bob Hopkins.
City officials purchased the former Plains Furniture Company store—located along South David Street—and the surrounding land and buildings for approximately $3 million in 2016 with no exact plans for its use.
About one month later, they learned it was hiding a piece of local history.
An old photo revealed that the building next door — a restored 1920s fire station that now houses commercial space — had a garage, which was later covered by the furniture store.
Another discovery was made last summer: Behind the ceiling tiles and white-painted dry wall of the store are the remnants of Nolan’s Chevrolet dealership, a 1920s staple in downtown Casper.
“We bought it with the idea that we weren’t quite sure what the plans would be and then once we found out the history of the building… That just kind of puts a whole new light on it,” said Hopkins.
The Council is mulling over a variety of suggestions, like turning the area into a parking lot, selling off individual buildings piece-by-piece or auctioning off the entire block.
An auction might bring in more money, but the city would relinquish all control over the properties’ future, said Hopkins. Putting individual parts for sale through a request for proposal process allows the Council to make stipulations, such as requiring the buyer to preserve the historic integrity of the structures.
The councilman, who toured the property last week, said he could envision the area being transformed into an open-air market surrounded by little shops.
“There’s just a lot of potential there,” he remarked.
City staff will not be making a recommendation to the Council at this time, according to Community Development Director Liz Becher.
“The Council does not want to have staff present options; they just want to hear from the public,” she explained.
The Council already sold off two buildings within the property block, including the former Ka-Lark’s gymnastics studio and the former Milo’s Toyota body shop.
Council members approved selling the structures to two local entrepreneurs back in December after a contentious three-hour public hearing. Many voiced support for the entrepreneurs but a local conference center consortium implored the Council to keep the buildings and save the location to potentially develop a hotel and conference center.
Scott Cotton, a co-owner of 1890 Inc., ultimately won the bid for the former gymnastic studio. Cotton previously explained that his custom apparel store needs a larger space to meet customer demands.
David Kelley, the owner of Ashby Construction, won the bid for the former body shop. He intends to use the building as office space for his own business and then build three structures next to it to rent out as apartments.