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Casper swaps commercial lots for riverfront property with eye toward public boat ramp

(Greg Hirst, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. — The City of Casper approved a land deal Tuesday that proponents say lays the groundwork for both new business development and public access to the riverfront.

The city will acquire about 2.28 acres along the south side of the bank of the North Platte River currently owned by West Center Hospitality — which owns Best Western Hotel — and two other LLCs.

In exchange, the city will give the property owners five commercial lots south of the Starbucks Coffee shop. That property is appraised at $200,000 less than the property it will get from the hotel owners, according to a city memo.

To equalize the trade, the city will pave/resurface a portion of the hotel parking lot and D Street, which runs between the Chamber of Commerce and the former location of the now-demolished Money Lenders building.

There will also be a permanent public access easement across the north parking lot — in line with E Street — to the riverbank, where the city hopes to build a public boat ramp.

City of Casper’s land swap agreement north of downtown, approved 3/21/23. (City of Casper)

“I think this makes really good sense,” said Councilor Amber Pollock. “This puts undeveloped land in the hands of developers while securing public access to a public asset.” She noted that the riverbank along the area is ripe for beautification and development in line with past Platte River Revival projects.

The commercial lots and city-funded surface rehab would attract development, according to the private property owners’ representative Paul Diamond, who spoke to the council Tuesday.

“Our goal here is to bring more people to Casper and downtown,” Diamond said. 

He and Vice Mayor Pacheco referred to the stretch of North Center Street as the “gateway to downtown” from Interstate 25.

Diamond said the Fairfield by Marriott is already poised to take over the tower building at the Best Western. When asked about inviting competition into close proximity, Diamond said each brand caters to distinct markets. 

Boston’s, the largest casual dining chain in Canada, is also interested in taking up residence in the area, Diamond said.