Casper City Council Votes to Sell Former Plains Furniture Properties
The Casper City Council changed its mind on Tuesday and voted to sell the former Plains Furniture properties downtown to a local development group.
The vote reversed the council's action three weeks ago when a resolution failed on a tie vote to sell the 15 related properties including the former furniture store that was the home of a 1920s-era car dealership.
The central issue was the sale price of $500,000 for a building that had been appraised at $1.5 million, which critics on the council said the taxpayers would take a loss of $1 million.
Tuesday, the resolution passed after three council members -- Shawn Johnson, Ray Pacheco, and Khrystyn Lutz -- changed their votes and agreed with the four -- Steve Cathey, Bob Hopkins, Mike Huber, Mayor Charlie Powell -- who voted yes before. Steve Freel was absent, and abstained because he's a real estate agent who may have business interests in the area in the future.
Ken Bates still opposed the sale, saying the $500,000 sale price was the city taking a 65% loss on purchase price. He rhetorically asked the crowd of sale supporters if they would be willing to sell their businesses for a 65% loss.
Even though the resolution failed on Oct. 15, council at its work session on Oct. 22 decided to revisit the issue.
Hopkins said then previous resolution debate was thorough about the merits of the sale, but the council did not have the opportunity to talk about the long-term economic effects if the prospective buyer were to develop into commercial and residential space, the jobs, and the effect on the Old Yellowstone District and downtown.
Brandon Daigle, an architect and partner with FLAG Development, on Oct. 15 showed slides of the history of the more than 30,000-square-foot building, and its interior features. FLAG would have demolished a century-old livery on South Ash Street and re-exposed the original building. FLAG also intended to sell some of the properties, and build a three-story building with a total of 18 residential units, Daigle said.
Tuesday, Daigle showed a short video of what the Nolan project would look like.
Local architect Tim Schenk said selling the properties and the development would attract other development.
Justin Farley, president of Advance Casper -- formerly known as the Casper Area Economic Development Alliance -- said it would be a mistake to try to put it back on the market for another request for proposal.
John Griffith said the sale and resulting development would solidify the heart of downtown.
"This group is ready to spend $8 million on this project," Griffith said. "From day one, this will be fully funded privately by this group."
Council members Lutz, Pacheco and Johnson said they received more information about the potential economic development, attracting new business, increased employment, downtown housing, and an increased tax base.
Pacheco acknowledged the city will be taking a loss on the purchase price, but said it will be an investment for future generations and a vote for a change.
"Change is scary," he said. "For us to grow ... have to change."
Johnson said he voted against the original purchase of the properties, but receive more information that the FLAG/Nolan project will be worthwhile.
"I'll be glad to get it into private hands so we don't have to vote on it any more," he said.