ROCK SPRINGS – “A cornerstone.” “An anchor.” “A landmark.” “The crown jewel.” All of these laudatory phrases were used to describe the past and hopefully the future of the First Security Bank Building at a Wednesday workshop conducted by the Rock Springs City Council.
The downtown building has been left vacant for decades, but Rock Springs is seeking a $3 million grant to secure and stabilize the building to hopefully prepare it for additional upgrades and tenants. The grant from the Wyoming Business Council requires a $250,000 match.
Main Street/Urban Renewal Agency Manager Chad Banks noted they sought a grant for the building back in 2011, but the WBC didn’t think the city was ready to do the project. Since then, Banks said Rock Springs has commissioned a feasibility study and continued to promote the building. While they have fielded hundreds of interested calls, he said they’ve never made the right connection.
The building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, has been a part of every city development plan dating back to 1980, and is a key to developing downtown, according to Banks.
“This building is always at the top of the list,” he said.
“Forget about what you see,” Jerry Myers with Myers Anderson Architects said Wednesday night.
He encouraged the City Council to look beyond the past and present, and think of the future. Assessments show that the building is in relatively good condition considering its age and the number of years it has been vacant, according to Myers.
He also praised its redeeming features. The building was constructed in 1919, according to the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office. The architects, Walter J. Cooper of Salt Lake City and D. D. Spanni of Rock Springs, chose terra cotta to face the building and for architectural ornamentation. It also includes a grand staircase, balconies and mezzanine.
Time has taken its toll, and there has been some settling in the basement. Damage was also caused by water that seeped in along with vagrants and pigeons. It was noted that until recently, an owl was feeding on the pigeons in the building.
“He was a good employee,” Mayor Tim Kaumo said.
The grant proposal they are preparing would allow them to clean up interior debris, replace the exterior doors and windows, stabilize the structure, clean the exterior, add two new stairwells, build an elevator shaft, and install water, sewer and electrical utilities. When you add in a contingency reserve and fees, the architects estimate that phase one of the project will cost almost $3.8 million and overall it will take $6.7 million to make it ready to house new tenants.
The idea is that even if they didn’t do any more immediate upgrades, buttoning up the property would extend its lifespan.
‘IT CAN LOOK BEAUTIFUL AGAIN’
Gordon Crofts from Salt Lake City, who owns the 504 S. Main St. building, plans to donate the neighboring property so the two buildings can be renovated together. He admitted he hopes to purchase the First Security Bank when the improvements are completed.
Crofts said he has more than 40-plus years in real estate and he was drawn to the “beautiful building” with its unique design. As it is restored to its former stunning state, he said it will draw people to downtown.
“This will be the piece that revitalizes the area,” he said.
He added the renovation of the building will cause more people to pay attention to what’s going on in downtown Rock Springs and signal outside businesses that the government is on board with more developers.
“It can look beautiful again,” Crofts said of the building.
When asked about the return on investing taxpayer money, Myers said the city would expand its tax base when the business started hosting businesses again. Rock Springs would also split the lease revenue with the Wyoming Business Council.
Crofts also said they want to use Wyoming workers for the project and will do their best to give in-state businesses a fair shot.
Councilman Rob Zotti said one reason the previous grant proposal was denied was due to a lack of financial transparency. He asked Crofts if he was willing to provide more information.
Crofts said he thought that the WBC request was asking for too much at the time, but he is willing to provide the necessary details to make it happen.
ACT NOW TO PRESERVE THE PAST
Kaumo said it will take everyone working together to pull off this project, and time is limited.
“We don’t have many opportunities left with this building,” he said.
He said if they don’t do something to save the building, it might be up to them to demolish it, which won’t be cheap.
The building remains salvageable, and Kaumo said it’s in better condition than the old Union Pacific Coal Co. building that went on to house Coyote Creek.
The next steps are for city staff to finish the application, forward it to the City Council for its endorsement, and submit it to the WBC. A quitclaim deed will also go before the council so the city can accept 504 S. Main St. The deed will be contingent on the city receiving the grant. Then the parties hope to fix up the building and make it a cornerstone in downtown revitalization.
“It’s an exciting opportunity,” Crofts said.
To see portions of Myers Anderson Architects presentation on the First Security Bank Building, go to rocketminer.com.