Finding a New Use For an Old Space

2019-04-13 | Laramie Boomerang

As the city moves forward with the new Municipal Operations Center north of Laramie, the City Council, the Planning Commission and members of city staff have been brainstorming possible uses and development ideas for the current Public Works facility on Fourth Street once it's vacant.

During the Laramie City Council's Tuesday work session, several council members expressed their excitement about the presented options for potential mixed-use buildings in the old facility by LaBonte Park. Councilman Bryan Shuster noted, however, Council was told during the initial visioning exercise "there are no boundaries," when in fact there are some, including cost.

"I know that the city is in no way available to where we can build a building hoping somebody will come, because our funding just isn't there," Shuster said during the work session. "It's great that we show this, but in actual reality, are we going to be able to do much of this?"

University of Denver graduate students Mark Christensen and Max Gesten have been working as interns with the city to research and design what kind of development, if any, the city would like to see replace the old facility. After visioning sessions with the three groups, Christensen and Gesten came up with three options for potential development, each with varying intensities of zoning use.

All three options featured a mix of retail and residential space, with the highest intensity option of the three featuring about 60,000 square feet of retail space. The three options all included necessary parking and street enhancements, and they also followed guidelines from the Unified Development Code and the City Council's own goals set earlier this year.

"Into the bigger picture in looking at … the policy goals and objectives that the City Council adopted for this year," Christensen said during his presentation, "these call for a holistic, Laramie-centric economic development strategy, and we believe the redevelopment of these parcels would lend itself to that."

City Manager Janine Jordan added the Council should "keep at the forefront of our mind" not having the city necessarily be the developer, but instead pursuing public-private partnerships and grants to alleviate some of the potential strain on the city's most limited resources, funding and staff time.

Christensen and Gesten are taking Council's feedback about each of the three options and creating a final design and project to present to the city again in May.