The old Roosevelt High School will in its new life become a “one-stop shop” for veterans services, while the Fairgrounds Center will be born again as a church.
The Natrona County School District Board of Trustees voted Monday night to approve the sale of the two buildings, the first of several the district plans to sell off in the coming years. The former high school was sold to the Casper Housing Authority for $426,000, the CHA’s executive director said, and the center was purchased by Alliance Church for an undisclosed price over $566,000.
Both facilities are already vacant and were recommended to be removed from the district’s inventory by a study released in November. The report also called for the closure of Grant Elementary and the eventual sale of Grant, Mills Elementary, North Casper Elementary and the Star Lane Center.
Dennis Bay, the district’s executive director of business services, announced the sales last week. While the board approved it unanimously, the sales are pending final negotiations between the buyers and the district.
Both properties were appraised twice, according to district officials, with the average of those appraisals becoming the minimum bid the district would accept.
For Roosevelt, the grounds of which cover more than two acres, the minimum bid was advertised by the district at $350,000. It’s unclear if entities other than the CHA bid for it, but CHA executive director Kim Summerall-Wright confirmed the organization, which oversees public housing here, will pay $426,000.
Summerall-Wright said their plan is to turn the high school, which closed after last school year, into a “one-stop shop” for veterans services. The space, which will be called The Landing, would serve as permanent housing for homeless veterans on the second floor, with offices, meeting rooms and services on the first floor.
The services offered would be wide-ranging: The gym would become a store, called Fabb 4 Less, that would accept donated housing supplies, like carpet or sinks, and sell them at a discounted rate. Veterans would staff the store and be paid for their work. That type of service would be especially helpful for homeless veterans as they learn “how to regain independence that was lost when they were on the street and in survival mode,” she said.
Counseling and drug, alcohol and behavior rehabilitation programs would be offered at the center, Summerall-Wright said.
Community gardens will be grown and maintained by veterans, with supervision by the Wyoming Food for Thought program. The produce grown there will be sold, again with veterans being paid for their work. Summerall-Wright said that because north Casper doesn’t have a grocery store, the gardens also would provide fresh produce for the area.
The ambitious plan would bring in a number of agencies and organizations, from the Wounded Warrior program to motorcycle clubs that raise money for veterans. The latter, for instance, would be able to use office space or meeting rooms to plan fundraising rides. The Landing would serve veterans in a variety of circumstances, from those who may be homeless to those who may just need help.
CHA is in the process of recruiting agencies and services.
“Our hope is that … you walk in the front door and say, ‘I don’t know how to connect with the VA, I just need help,’” Summerall-Wright said.
She said the building itself is in good shape and will need relatively little remodeling. CHA’s goal is to modernize and revitalize the old high school while preserving its history. The organization has been “thinking” about The Landing project for two years, Summerall-Wright said, and hopes to have it up and running in 12 to 18 months.
A new church
For Fairgrounds, the minimum bid advertised by the district was $566,000. Three entities submitted bids, with Alliance winning out. Both district and church officials declined to give specifics on the final sale price.
Pastor Dave McGullion said Fairgrounds Center was “exactly what we were looking for.” The building is all on one level, he said, meaning that it’s easily accessible for people with disabilities. The church’s current location has three levels, with bathrooms in the basement.
An assisted-living home will also be built to the west of the center — another reason for the church’s interest.
When the church found out in early December that the center was up for sale, it was immediately interested, McGuillion said. When Alliance gauged the interest of its congregation, its worshipers voted unanimously.
A church official from Billings, Montana, drove down to tour the facility, and a financial official from Colorado Springs flew in. With funding secured, church officials submitted their bid on Dec. 14, a day before the deadline, and were told on Dec. 15 that their bid had been successful.
McGuillion said everything fell into place for the church.
“God wanted us to have it,” he said. “That’s it.”
For now, the church will use Fairgrounds’ gym as a sanctuary, as well as a multipurpose space. The church wants to eventually build a sanctuary. It also wants to add a kitchen and a fellowship area.
Both deals are to be finalized by March 15.