Developers disappointed in Council’s Plains Furniture decision—say downtown needs housing [DESIGN PHOTOS]

Plains Building Demolition (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

Spokesmen for the two Plains Furniture redevelopment proposals the City received say they’re disappointed with City Council’s expected decision to open another request for proposals to develop the properties.

The Council said during its Tuesday, Feb. 26 work session that it will re-open the City’s request for proposals to redevelop the former Plains Furniture Building and parking lots as well as the former livery stable property.

That new round of proposals is expected to officially begin Tuesday, March 5 after Council votes on a resolution to authorize another 60 days for redevelopers to submit proposals.

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Spokesmen for both Ashby Construction and FLAG Development said they were disappointed in the Council’s decision, but said they were understanding of the reasoning behind it.

Council came to that decision after hearing legal advice from City Attorney John Henley. The City’s previous request for redevelopment proposals received two applications. Both Ashby Construction, LLC and FLAG Development, LLC’s applications were under the City’s appraised values for the properties.

Henley told the Council that a requirement was included in the request for proposals that the applications meet or exceed the appraised value of the properties.

Since neither of the applications met that requirement, he said that Council should be aware that granting one of the applications might be considered as the City construing a benefit at under-market cost to that applicant. He said that was likely unconstitutional.

“I’m obviously disappointed, but I understand why they did it,” said Ashby Construction President David Kelley. “There’s always that potential when you’re working with a government entity.”

“It’s unfortunate, but you have to take the good with the bad,” said FLAG Development Partner Kevin Hawley. “At the end of the day it’s the City’s property and it’s the City Council’s decision.”

Both Ashby Construction and FLAG Development’s applications include some of their design plans and were made public in the Council’s work session work packet. When Council decided during the work session that it would re-open the request for proposals, some Council members did say it could be problematic that those plans were made public.

Henley said the City decided to go ahead and release those applications because that was part of the process Council had established for the request for proposals. Other confidential information was not released to the public.

“At that point we felt they were public record,” Henley said.

Hawley said he thought Council could have asked the applicants for their thoughts during the work session.

“It was disappointing that we weren’t given a chance to speak at all,” he said.

Both Hawley and Kelley said their companies hadn’t decided whether and how they would apply when the Council re-opens the request for proposals. Henley said that he’ll work with Community Development Director Liz Becher to get the wording right so that Council has the flexibility to select an application that is under the appraised value in case that occurs again.

Henley added that the new round of requests would use the same appraised values as before. He said a phrase would likely be added that would allow Council to accept an offer that it considers a “fair market value.”

Henley speculated that since both applications were for under the appraised value obtained by the City, that appraisal might have been too high.

Hawley said that FLAG Development didn’t necessarily think the City’s appraisal of the properties was inaccurate, but submitted their application with numbers they could make work. He did say that if working with the City proves too difficult, private businesses might hesitate to work with them.

“To me it was potentially a communication issue,” Hawley said. “The private sector will just go somewhere else.”

He reiterated that despite the hiccups, he was understanding.

“There’s no sour grapes,” he said, adding that he was also interested to learn about the other proposal. “I was excited to see Ashby’s proposal, that it was more market-rate housing.”

Both FLAG Development and Ashby Construction’s proposals included plans to redevelop some or all of the eligible properties into market-rate housing.

“We need people living down here staying overnight,” Hawley said of Casper’s downtown.

“I’m excited about doing something downtown,” said Kelley.

Hawley said that one of the reasons he was disappointed with Council’s decision is because Council itself has been talking about the need for more downtown housing. During their Monday, Feb. 25 special work session, some Council members said there was a need to offer affordable living spaces downtown.

Hawley said that he thought more developers would be attracted to take on projects downtown if they see that other projects are successful.

“You need a proof of concept,” he said.

Community Development Director Liz Becher said the appraised value of the properties were as follows:

  • Plains lot 1: $370,000
  • Plains lot 2: $240,000 
  • Plains lot 3: $235,000
  • Livery stable: $300,000
  • Parking lot: $275,000

Ashby Contruction’s proposal was to purchase the former livery stable property for $250,000 and the former Plains Furniture parking lot for $278,000.

Ashby Construction, LLC design renderings (Courtesy City of Casper)

Their plan for the livery stable property was for two separate two unit commercial buildings, according to their proposal. Their plan for the Plains Furniture parking lot was to build eight new townhouses.

Ashby Construction, LLC design renderings (Courtesy City of Casper)

FLAG Development’s proposal was to create “up to (11) market-rate loft townhouses within the existing Plains Furniture property.” They would also convert the South parking lot into seven “three-story market-rate rowhouses.”

FLAG Development, LLC design renderings (Courtesy City of Casper)

Their application says the old Nolan Service Building would be converted into office space. A courtyard would also be put in place on the North lot. They planned to use the former livery stable property as a parking lot. Their bid to purchase all of the properties included in the request for proposal totaled $1 million.

FLAG Development, LLC design renderings (Courtesy City of Casper)