Midwest Avenue isn’t the safest or most attractive street in downtown Casper.
Narrow sidewalks and crumbling curbs line the roadway, while electrical wiring hangs overhead, and there’s not a potted plant or tree in sight.
But as Liz Becher stared out at the avenue on a recent afternoon, she didn’t see its current dilapidated state — instead, she envisioned its potential. The community development director said the city plans to start 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 city will work on the project two blocks at a time and will begin accepting contractor bids this fall.
City leaders have worked for years to make downtown livelier and more appealing.
Officials hoped the David Street Station — a downtown plaza that opened last month — would encourage new businesses to pop up in the surrounding area. And their plan appears to be working. New shops and restaurants have recently opened downtown including Racca’s Pizzeria Napoletana, Urban Bottle and the Gaslight Social bar.
The city was able to show off these changes during the Wyoming Eclipse Festival last month, which brought tens of thousands of tourists to Casper. Explaining that the festival was a great success, Mayor Kenyne Humphrey previously told the Star-Tribune that the city hopes to hold other large-scale events in the future.
But now that residents and tourists are starting to spend more time in the city’s center, Becher said it’s important to make sure they can safely make their way around.
Pointing to the spacious, well-lit sidewalks and crabapple trees that frame West Yellowstone, Becher said she hopes that will be the outcome for Midwest.
“Now this — this is walkable,” she said.
Matt Galloway, the co-owner of the Gaslight Social — which is located along Midwest Avenue — said he’s grateful to city officials for working to renovate the streets downtown. Although construction can be a bit of a nuisance, Galloway said there’s always a price to pay for progress.
“Bring on the construction — let’s get her done,” he remarked.
Out of all the changes planned for Midwest, Galloway thinks it’s especially essential for the city to improve the sidewalks and lighting, because he worries about his patrons walking along the unlit street at night.
“Dark brings out the bad in people,” he said, explaining that he believes street lights will be a crime deterrent.
Galloway added that he hopes the city will work on Ash Street once the renovations on Midwest are completed.
Steven Schnell, the executive director of The Science Zone museum — which is also located on Midwest — said the nearby sidewalks are in dire of need of repairs.
“There are sections where essentially there are no sidewalks anymore — it’s just a dirt patch,” he explained.
However, the executive director also added that he’s interested in learning the cost of these repairs.
The city will be able to provide a cost estimate for the renovation project once they start reviewing bids, according to Becher.