CASPER, Wyo. — True companies were among the original investors in downtown Casper’s “The Nolan” project. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a tough financial outlook for FLAG Development, True will take charge of the development moving forward, according to True companies spokesperson Bill Salvin.
The project to add residential and commercial space downtown got its feet after the Casper City Council voted to sell some former Plains Furniture Building and adjacent properties to FLAG Development for $500,000 in Oct. 2019.
FLAG Development partner Kevin Hawley said via email on Tuesday, Aug. 4 that True companies had bought out FLAG Development in what he called a restructuring of ownership. FLAG’s other partner is Brandon Daigle. Since Hawley said FLAG did not make a profit on the agreement with True companies, he didn’t think the term sale accurately described the change in ownership.
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“We were made whole on our initial financial commitments and released from debt service obligations,” he said.
Salvin and Hawley noted that the COVID-19 pandemic and other economic dynamics put FLAG Development in a difficult position to complete the project.
“We were in a position to continue with the project when the finances changed,” Salvin said. “[FLAG] is a small business. It became a challenging time.”
Salvin said that the project will move forward under the name “The Nolan” and that the vision remains consistent. He said the project is tentatively expected to be complete by June 2021.
“We’re going to do the commercial and the residential [space],” he said. “We’re sticking as close to the original plan as possible.”
He added that True companies will also maintain relationships with some who plan to lease commercial space at The Nolan.
“Flowstate is still an anchor tenant,” Salvin said. “That is not going to change.”
Hawley described the challenging economic environment that lead to FLAG Development stepping out of the project as owners.
“The virus hit, unknowns for the future skyrocketed, oil went negative for a time and unknowns mounted even more,” he said. “Liquidity and risk tolerance are different for all sorts of investors and investments. For me, personally, my exit from the project was a release of debt and liability. I am not wealthy and in these uncertain time, like many small businesses, I could not weather the storm.”
Salvin said that True companies are aware of the economic situation as they look to move forward on a project that will seek to attract people to live and work downtown. But he said they are committed to the project to help develop and enliven downtown Casper with hopes that The Nolan could spur further investment in the area.
Hawley said that he wishes he could have stayed involved in the project as an owner, but that given the economic circumstances, he’s glad to see True companies at the helm.
“Timing is everything,” he said. “I wish I was still an ‘owner’ in what I think is an amazing and catalytic project for our community; however, I am not disappointed.”
“In the current economic circumstances, consolidation of the project is what is going to keep it moving forward and see it through to completion. I am not embarrassed or ashamed. I am proud of our efforts. We had a vision for downtown Casper and this property and brought in nearly $8 million of private investment to downtown and Casper. I would call that a success and I am proud of the role I played in it.”
Salvin said that True companies are “thrilled” to be able to carry the project forward.
“We’re grateful that we are able to continue this project,” he said. “We are also grateful having worked with Kevin and Brandon.”
The properties involved in the City of Casper’s sale to FLAG Development had an appraised value of about $1.1 or $1.2 million, according to the city. The city council faced criticism from some for selling the properties under their appraised value. Others argued it was best for the city to sell the properties so that development could move forward.
Before the city council accepted FLAG Development’s $500,000 bid in Oct. 2019, they had rejected bids from both FLAG and Ashby Construction received in a previous round of requests for proposals.
When the city first requested bids, Ashby submitted a bid for $528,000 and FLAG submitted a bid totalling $1 million. Both company’s bids proposed purchasing only some of the overall available property.
FLAG submitted the only bid during the city’s second request for proposals which was modified from their bid during the first round.
The city originally planned to tear the building down after purchasing it in 2016 for downtown parking, but chose not to after discovering aspects of a former car dealership, including a maintenance garage and a garage bay of the old Casper Fire Station No. 1.