Businesses Clear Out as New State Office Construction Nears

Several Casper business crews say they were forced out of their store locations as a new state office is set for construction.

Buildings along West Collins Drive were cleared out as the new building's status looms.

This building and a few others are now empty shells.

Boarded up windows and signs show what's been on business owners' minds for a while.

"We didn't want to move. None of the merchants wanted to move."

Ken Schafer is one of those merchants who were told to relocate for a new state office building.

Schafer's store was situated here in this building for years.

He still wishes he could've stayed in his old location due to the extra space.

"We could dog agility in there. I mean the building was just perfect for the training. It worked well for sales of the merchandise: food and stuff," said Ken Schafer co-owner of K&M Pet Products.

State leaders approved expenditures for the project during the recent legislative session.

City leaders even had a say in the process as well.

"Casper has been talking about the need for a state office building downtown for quite a few years," said Vice Mayor Charlie Powell.

The 110,000 square foot project will house all Casper state offices in one central location.

That's something Powell believes is a bonus.

"It's just more convenient for people if they have things they need to take care of at state agencies to just know where that agency is. All of them will be in the same place."

Meanwhile, merchants say they have no choice but to accept it.

"It is what it is."

Demolition is scheduled soon for all these vacant properties, so construction can get underway .

State lawmakers also say the new building will help replace one of the state offices downtown.

They say that building is non-compliant due to its old age, and the costs for fixing it up.