Plaza Update

Workers continue the construction of the David Street Station public plaza recently.

Josh Galemore, Star-Tribune

First Thursday this month presented a snapshot of what Downtown Casper is becoming. Old and young Casperites were enjoying art, food, music and family fun at the Nicolaysen, Art 321 and Yellowstone Garage. Second Street was rocking!

David Street Station is scheduled to open three days before the total solar eclipse. The Brian Scott Gamroth stage and its tiered seating area are taking shape. The block-long promenade for displays, tents, farmers’ markets and craft shows is identifiable ... one can imagine dancing in the street!

The foundations for the ice rink/splash pad and patio area are being prepared on the east side of the plaza. The pavilion and restroom area will be just north of the old fire station. It will be a gathering spot for 5K run/walks, 3-on-3 basketball, volleyball and other sporting events.

Within a block and a half, the Old Yellowstone District, the Lyric Performing Arts Center, a half-dozen brew pubs, restaurants and entertainment venues are opening. People are using the parking garage!

David Street Station is the center of it all. It has been in the planning stages for three years. Downtown celebration and gathering spaces in Missoula, Bozeman, Billings, Rapid City, Steamboat Springs, Grand Junction, Cheyenne and Fort Collins have been studied for usage, design, flexibility and fun. The Downtown Development Authority, city, county and state have joined in the planning and building.

The McMurry Foundation and Hilltop National Bank have committed to fund the final $750,000 of the $9.1 million public/private project, which includes a $1 million funded endowment. We need to raise $455,000 to activate those commitments. That means every $1 donation or commitment we raise now receives the equivalent of $1.65 match when we reach the $455,000 mark to finish the project.

The public portion has been 43 percent of the total, mostly used for land acquisition and planning. Central Wyoming citizens, businesses and foundations have provided the balance. The Brian Scott Gamroth stage fund drive raised $500,000 including a dollar-for-dollar match from anonymous donors. The K2 Radio morning show host led the community drive until his death last September. Brian was active in fundraising activities around the state, and many people came forward for the stage tribute in his honor.

Folks who made gifts have said it was a “thank you” for the success and good memories Casper has brought them. They look forward to more family outings in the downtown entertainment space.

Appreciated publicly traded stock makes a tax-smart gift. One can avoid the capital gains tax and write off the market value for the security when it is given directly to the project. For people with large estates, gifts can also reduce estate taxes. Consult your tax adviser.

The IRS requires owners of IRAs and other qualified retirement plans to take money from their tax deferred accounts after age 70 ½. This forces income tax on those RMD’s. Some people do not need that money. Tax law now allows RMDs to be paid directly to charities and avoid the personal income tax. This is especially valuable for people who can’t itemize tax deductions. Also, some IRAs have grown as people get older, and making up to a $100,000 charitable gift is possible. This avoids children having to pay taxes. Again, check with your tax adviser.

The David Street Station project reminds us of the relocation of the Nicolaysen Art Museum and Discovery Center 30 years ago. The energy industry was in a bit of a slump; oil prices had dropped by 50 percent and the usual givers were not in a position to lead a parade of giving. In 1987 the largest gift came from a retired single teacher who wanted kids to learn about art.

When the David Street Station project began, it had similar headwinds, which the DDA board faced with the help of many people. We believe someone we don’t even know is likely to step forward and say, “Maybe I can help,” just like the retired teacher helped the Nicolaysen project. That is what makes Casper a truly wonderful community.

Let’s keep that feeling rolling. If you would like to explore the project further, we would love to have the conversation.

The authors of this piece are John Jorgensen, Cathy Carson, George Bryce and Kevin Hawley. The Downtown Development Authority can be reached at 307-235-6710.

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