Sweetwater County's Trio of Transformation

Building restoration projects usher in a new era in the Sweetwater County region.

By
Bill Lewis
On Thursday, April 30, 2020 - 15:24
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Three historic properties that contributed to Sweetwater County’s prosperity and civic life before falling into disrepair are undergoing a transformation that is restoring their former luster.

Efforts are underway to restore the Tomahawk Hotel and the train depot in Green River and the First Security Bank Building in Rock Springs. The restored structures will be repurposed for new uses that spark business activity in the surrounding neighborhoods.

Preserving a Rich History

The Green River Train Depot was a key part of downtown’s economic and civic life for years. Restoration efforts are underway to make sure it will be again, says City Administrator Reed Clevenger.

“It’s a key project for the city of Green River, a key project for downtown and Main Street development,” he says.

The city and Sweetwater County are working together to map out a plan for restoring the building in phases and applying for grants.

The interior of the building, completed in 1910 has been stabilized. Next steps include roof repairs and installing plumbing and electrical infrastructure. The goal is to bring the building up to date while preserving its rich history.

“We’re going to try to keep as much history as possible. We need to create something that will draw people downtown,” Clevenger says.

Building on Success

The Sweetwater County Historical Museum may become the main anchor tenant in the depot. The museum needs more space, and a move to the depot would open its current location in the old post office to new uses.

“Our goal is the museum, small shops and a restaurant,” Clevenger says. “It’s taken some time, but pieces are starting to come together.”

Rock Springs is taking steps toward acquiring funding for restoration of the First Security Bank Building and hopes to begin taking bids for the work in early 2020. The plan is flexible but includes mixed use such as retail shops and a restaurant on the main floor with upper-story office space.

The restoration of the building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has been part of the city’s planning process since at least 2005. Preserving the building could encourage investment and business activity and draw more people downtown, says Urban Renewal Agency Manager Chad Banks.

“But also the historical significance of the building cannot be overstated and losing it would be a real disappointment. The restoration also builds on successful historic preservation in Rock Springs – the Rock Springs Historical Museum, Rock Springs Train Depot, Bunning Freight Station and Broadway Theater,” Banks says. “Clearly, the more buildings that are restored and usable in downtown Rock Springs, the better off the community is.”

Creating Opportunities

The Tomahawk Hotel is on its way to becoming “an entrepreneurial zone,” says Marty Carollo, a member of Green River Opportunities Wyoming (GRoWYO), which purchased the building in 2017.

“If we do it right, we’ll re-create the flow and movement downtown as an asset, a fun place to go,” he says.

For decades after opening in 1921, the hotel welcomed guests traveling on the Lincoln Highway. Now, it is being repurposed as a mixed-use building, with dining and retail in street-level storefront spaces, offices and shared workspaces on the second floor and rental apartments on the top floor.

“This building needs to be an asset for our community. That’s what we’re trying to do,” Carollo says.

GroWYO hopes to recruit a coffee shop for the corner suite on the ground floor and retailers for other spaces. The shared workspace and conference rooms on the second level will be available for brief uses by, for example, home-based entrepreneurs who need a professional setting for a meeting. Longer-term leases will also be available.

That business model will encourage foot traffic throughout the day in the surrounding neighborhood, he says.

The third floor will be residential, with three two-bedroom apartments and three one-bedroom units.

The project is being completed in phases. A major goal, installation of an elevator, has been accomplished.

“The plan is to build what our community needs,” Carollo says. “It needs to be a viable part of our town. Our tagline is ‘commit, collaborate and succeed.’”

The interior of the building, completed in 1910 has been stabilized. Next steps include roof repairs and installing plumbing and electrical infrastructure. The goal is to bring the building up to date while preserving its rich history.

“We’re going to try to keep as much history as possible. We need to create something that will draw people downtown,” Clevenger says.

Building on Success

The Sweetwater County Historical Museum may become the main anchor tenant in the depot. The museum needs more space, and a move to the depot would open its current location in the old post office to new uses.

“Our goal is the museum, small shops and a restaurant,” Clevenger says. “It’s taken some time, but pieces are starting to come together.”

Rock Springs is taking steps toward acquiring funding for restoration of the First Security Bank Building and hopes to begin taking bids for the work in early 2020. The plan is flexible but includes mixed use such as retail shops and a restaurant on the main floor with upper-story office space.

The restoration of the building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has been part of the city’s planning process since at least 2005. Preserving the building could encourage investment and business activity and draw more people downtown, says Urban Renewal Agency Manager Chad Banks.

“But also the historical significance of the building cannot be overstated and losing it would be a real disappointment. The restoration also builds on successful historic preservation in Rock Springs – the Rock Springs Historical Museum, Rock Springs Train Depot, Bunning Freight Station and Broadway Theater,” Banks says. “Clearly, the more buildings that are restored and usable in downtown Rock Springs, the better off the community is.”

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Jeff Adkins

Creating Opportunities

The Tomahawk Hotel is on its way to becoming “an entrepreneurial zone,” says Marty Carollo, a member of Green River Opportunities Wyoming (GRoWYO), which purchased the building in 2017.

“If we do it right, we’ll re-create the flow and movement downtown as an asset, a fun place to go,” he says.

For decades after opening in 1921, the hotel welcomed guests traveling on the Lincoln Highway. Now, it is being repurposed as a mixed-use building, with dining and retail in street-level storefront spaces, offices and shared workspaces on the second floor and rental apartments on the top floor.

“This building needs to be an asset for our community. That’s what we’re trying to do,” Carollo says.

GroWYO hopes to recruit a coffee shop for the corner suite on the ground floor and retailers for other spaces. The shared workspace and conference rooms on the second level will be available for brief uses by, for example, home-based entrepreneurs who need a professional setting for a meeting. Longer-term leases will also be available.

That business model will encourage foot traffic throughout the day in the surrounding neighborhood, he says.

The third floor will be residential, with three two-bedroom apartments and three one-bedroom units.

The project is being completed in phases. A major goal, installation of an elevator, has been accomplished.

“The plan is to build what our community needs,” Carollo says. “It needs to be a viable part of our town. Our tagline is ‘commit, collaborate and succeed.’”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bill Lewis is an award-winning business journalist whose work has appeared in publications across the United States.