Casper’s Downtown Development Authority wants to add a new type of attraction to the downtown area: a public plaza.
Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Kevin Hawley says, "When you look at an overview of downtown Casper we have smaller public gathering places on the periphery. What we don't have is a central in the downtown district a gathering spot."
The hope is that a new plaza can help bridge the Old Yellowstone District and downtown, getting more foot traffic to both areas. "You can go and get a coffee and go ice skating and then walk and go get dinner or go to a movie or stop in a shop. I mean the potential, the multiplier effect is outstanding," Hawley said.
The addition of the new plaza has many business owners optimistic that it will bring new businesses to the area. "With all of the exciting things the city has planned for Old Yellowstone and with we're working to accomplish in the DDA district, the potential is just tremendous for that to be very impactful and then to spur growth off of it," Hawley said, while Casper Mayor Paul Meyer agrees. "I don’t' know exactly what businesses it will draw in, but I know activity in our downtown sells stuff and makes people want to be downtown and those are both good things."
The idea was pitched to Casper City Council and the Old Yellowstone District Board, who say it could help solve one of Casper’s biggest problems. "I believe it will be a major ingredient in retaining our youth, I really do. A vibrant, growing downtown is absolutely crucial to the next generation," Meyer said.
However, nothing is set it stone and everything is still in the preliminary state, as of this point it’s just an idea. "It's just in its infancy. So now we need to make the next steps to put a plan together, a business plan because this needs to be a self-sustaining model, something where we don't need to go back and continually ask for money to fund this," Hawley said.
The plaza is still in the very early stages and was only brought up to see what both the Casper City Council and the Old Yellowstone Board were thinking. The plan still has to go through multiple readings in the council and could be looking at least 2 to 4 years before it’s built.