The Wyoming Business Council has approved the City of Casper’s grant application requesting approximately $1.5 million to help pay for the second phase of renovations along Midwest Avenue.
“I really support what you guys have been doing, and I think this is a great project,” director Mike Easley said to a handful of Casper representatives at Thursday’s meeting, moments before the council voted to approve the grant.
The application will now be passed along to the State Loan and Investment Board, which must also sign off on the grant before Casper can receive the money.
Midwest Avenue is one of Casper’s main streets downtown. Work is already underway on the project’s first phase, which involves fixing up the portion of Midwest between David and Elm streets. Andrew Beamer, the city’s public services director, previously said he hoped the grant would allow the project to extend to Walnut Street.
Beamer told the board of directors Thursday that revitalizing the roadway is a priority for city officials and community members.
Casper’s leaders are hoping to receive a $3 million grant from the Wyoming Business Council …
That sentiment was echoed by Fred Feth, a member of Casper’s Planning and Zoning Commission.
“The city of Casper and the business owners and residents of the Old Yellowstone District have put a lot of time, effort and money into upgrading that area,” he said. “If you ever toured that in the past, you know that it was pretty much a blighted area. It is not blighted anymore.”
City Councilman Bob Hopkins said it was especially important to renovate Midwest because of its proximity to the state office building being constructed downtown.
The building, which will be located on an 11-acre plot at 444 West Collins Drive, will consolidate multiple departments, including the Department of Workforce Services, the Department of Family Services and the Department of Environmental Quality. It is expected to open in 2021.
On Thursday afternoon, Beamer said the city appreciated the business council’s support.
“We are very happy to get their approval,” he said, adding that the Midwest Avenue project’s second phase is slated to begin in spring 2020.
Casper officials applied for a community readiness grant, which Julie Kozlowski, the business council’s community development director, previously explained are for projects that “ready the community” in various ways for economic development.
Some Casper streets could receive a makeover this spring.
“It’s very competitive,” she said in October. “We accept applications quarterly and we typically receive more in requests than we have funding to reward.”
The Midwest Avenue reconstruction project is part of Casper’s ongoing effort to revitalize the city’s core. City officials plan to improve the street’s drainage, repair and widen its sidewalks and move the electrical wiring underground. The project will also include cosmetic touches, like benches and flower pots.
Two Casper community members previously said they are looking forward to the finished outcome.
Steven Schnell, the executive director of The Science Zone museum, which is located along Midwest, said the sidewalks are in dire need of repairs.
“There are sections where essentially there are no sidewalks anymore; it’s just a dirt patch,” he said.
Matt Galloway, co-owner of the Gaslight Social on Midwest, said he worried about his patrons walking along the unlit, crumbling sidewalks. 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.