Downtown Casper Faces Challenges

by Taylor Viydo, 
Many questions remain as to what's next for Downtown Casper. 
Developers and business owners in the downtown area face two primary challenges. First and foremost, the city announced last month that it would no longer pursue a conference center in downtown. Casper City Manager John Patterson called the idea of building a conference center and hotel on the corner of David and Old Yellowstone simply "unworkable." 
According to Downtown Development Authority chairwoman Brettnee Tromble, talk is now in place of building a conference center near Three Crowns golf course. While she says the DDA is pleased that Casper may still get a conference center, she says there is concern that it won't be in a central location. "As far as an economic turning of the wheel, it's suboptimal not to have it close in proximity to your shops and your core," said Tromble. 
Another burden to downtown developers: Casper's booming east-side.
Tromble says that's cause for concern. "It's something that I think city officials and our DDA board and private developers need to take to heart." Tromble also said that part of the draw for new businesses on the east side were low risks associated with building. 
Pat Sweeney, who owns the Wonder Bar along with other Casper businesses, said new businesses on the east side don't help downtown. While admitting that the state of downtown his healthy, "things can be better," said Sweeney.
Sweeney had similar thoughts on a conference center no longer coming to downtown. Sweeney said he was "disappointed" and added that a possible conference center near Three Crowns would be "too far away from downtown to help downtown." 
Developers are now faced with the question of how to bring businesses back to the downtown area. Tromble says developing real estate might be one way. "If we really focus in on getting a population of people for for-market rate housing downtown, you're going to see a change in the street-scape," she said. 
Tromble also said current trends suggest that young people tend to prefer to live in downtown areas and enjoy the ability to walk to nearby restaurants and shops. 
While questions remain, the DDA board member says things are looking up. "I really do think that there are some private developers that are saying 'Wow, we could really capitalize on this,' and I think that will start coming to Casper," said Tromble.