The first meeting of a recently-formed task force for the Casper state office building was held on Monday evening at City Hall.
Plans for the building’s layout were shown and discussed during a presentation by Lyle Murtha of Casper architectural firm Stateline No. 7.
Murtha revealed that the building has been given an address, 444 W. Collins Dr.
The new building will replace an aging office building at Midwest and Center, which was built in 1960 and needs $8.2 million worth of safety updates and differed maintenance, according to Murtha.
The new complex will also consolidate all state agencies under one roof, ending the need to rent various offices around the city. Nearly 400 state employees will be housed in the building.
Overall the building will have 110,000 square feet of space, with room on the third floor for growth. There is also room on the 11 acres of land for building additions or another building in the future if needed.
The interior layout features much use of natural light and open space for both workers and visitors. The third floor features a large flexible conference room that can be configured for small and large meetings. It will be shared by all of the agencies.
The Rails to Trails path will be rearranged and incorporated into the open space of the landscaping, according to Murtha. The design is meant to encourage biking and walking to the building.
The exterior design of the building has yet to be determined. It will combine an aesthetic that reflects government, modern and the historic fabric of the Old Yellowstone District, according to Murtha.
The timeline from start to finish is estimated to be about 3 and a half years, with demolition and land remediation starting this summer, and building completion in 2021.
The $45 million cost of the project came from mineral revenue and other investments, according to task force member Rep. Steve Harshman (R-Casper). Task force member say no taxpayer money was used in financing the project, and the building will pay for itself in about 12-years.
The task force emphasized their desire to construct a building that is expandable and will last for decades into the future. “A lot of us will probably be dead and gone we do something like this again,” said Rep. Harshman.
Eight existing buildings along Midwest will be demolished, displacing several small business owners.
Lisa Engebretsen, owner of Forefront Real Estate, was first to speak during the public comments section.
Engebresten questioned the timing of spending $45 million on an office project. Mostly, however, she echoed the frustration of her neighbors who feel like they were misled and “kept in the dark” when they signed leases and invested thousands of dollars into renovations and build outs in doomed buildings.
“At least give us the opportunity to decide if we want to invest our money into that location,” said Engebresten. “We were lied to, we were deceived. We put our money and hard work into each one of our locations and then told ‘we’re gonna bulldoze it’.”
“I’ve been trying to plan ahead with no communication from the state,” said Reed Merschat, owner of Surviver AC Antique Dealers.
Rich Merrill, A&I administrator of the state of Wyoming general services division, said he would be getting in touch with each of the tenants in the next two weeks to discuss lease arrangements.
“We have to look at each individual lease and see what’s in those leases, and the state has to abide by those,” said Merrill.
“As we move forward if there are changes in the lease that we have to work on, we will work with the individual occupants of the building and the terms of the lease and see what we have to come up with there.”
The next task force meeting is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. on June 13 at City Hall.