Racca's

Wes Marks preps the pizza oven before the first official day of operation at Racca’s Pizzeria Napoletana in Casper.

File, Star-Tribune

Three empty buildings along Ash Street in downtown Casper might be getting a makeover.

Local business representatives interested in purchasing and revitalizing the properties presented their proposals at City Council’s Tuesday night work session.

The buildings, which were part of the former Plains Furniture property block, include the former Ka-Lark’s gymnastics studio, the former Milo’s Toyota body shop and a former livery stable. City officials purchased the former Plains Furniture property block in early 2016, with no exact plans for its use.

Preference will be given to proposals that indicate an ability to start redevelopment within 30 days of receiving the contract and those that prioritize historic preservation, according to the memo.

The city followed the same general process with the former Fruit Warehouse building in late 2013 and early 2014. Now in the building are ART 321, Racca’s Pizzeria Napoletana and Urban Bottle.

Western portions of the United States tend to have fewer historic buildings than its eastern counterpart, Becher previously told the Star-Tribune, and she believes it’s especially important for this region of the country to try and preserve older structures.

The anticipated revenue from the sales of these properties is estimated at $850,000, states the memo. The revenue would repopulate the Revolving Land fund.

The Plains Furniture property block also includes the former Plains Furniture store that is along David Street. The city learned after purchasing the structure that it was hiding two pieces 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 this 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.

That property is undergoing a partial demolition project that includes asbestos-containing material abatement and light interior and exterior demolition.

Revitalizing the city’s core has been a priority for city leaders in recent years. Becher previously said the city will begin renovating Midwest Avenue in January by adding street lights, widening the sidewalks and moving the electrical wiring underground.

“We’re going to totally reconstruct it, just like we did with West Yellowstone,” she explained. “We’ll have park benches and bike racks, and at the corners we’ll have planters with trees and flowers.”

The David Street Station, a plaza that offers community gathering spaces and a stage, was opened by the Downtown Development Agency in August.

City officials hoped the complex would encourage economic growth and the plan appears to be working. New businesses have recently popped up in the surrounding blocks including Racca’s Pizzeria Napoletana, Urban Bottle and The Gaslight Social bar.

Katie King covers the city of Casper.

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Katie King joined the Star-Tribune in 2017 and primarily covers issues related to local government. She previously worked as a crime reporter in the British Virgin Islands. Originally from Virginia, Katie is a graduate of James Madison University.

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