RANCHESTER — Earlier this month, Ranchester received a major step up in its economic development goals when it was approved for a $977,500 Community Readiness Grant through the Wyoming Business Council.
Town engineer Chris Johnson, who prepared and submitted the grant, said contracts have yet to be signed — estimated to occur by March — but the Wyoming State Loan and Investment Board did give the grant a nod for full approval, according to a Wyoming Business Council media release.
The grant will be used to construct a Main Street Mercantile on the corner of Main Street and U.S. Highway 14 across from the fire hall and information center on land owned by the town of Ranchester.
Plans for the mercantile are not final, but it is projected to consist of a building with three retail spaces, a covered, outdoor space for events like farmers markets and a parking lot with approximately 30 spaces.
The idea of a mercantile was outlined in Ranchester’s Downtown Development Plan, created in 2009. It is Phase 2 of the plan.
There is currently interest in all three retail spaces, Johnson said.
No contracts have been signed, but proposed ideas include a restaurant, a sporting goods store, a general store and a bakery.
Johnson said an economic development steering committee proposed the idea for a farmers market space.
“They decided a farmers market would be a good idea,” Johnson said. “They seem to be doing quite well around the country. We did a survey and had interest in a farmers market. It seemed to complement the site.”
Phase 1 of the Downtown Development Plan was completed with construction of the Ranchester Information Center in 2010, facilitated by a Business Ready Communities Grant and a Community Development Block Grant through the business council. With those two grants, Ranchester purchased property for the information center and mercantile, removed old buildings on the sites and constructed the information center.
“The Downtown Development Plan is a long-term plan. As it develops, our hope is to boost the economics of Ranchester,” Johnson said.
Johnson said Phase 3 has not been outlined yet as town officials are focused on completing Phase 2. The grants do stipulate that any income the town receives from the retail spaces in the Main Street Mercantile must be kept for future economic development, Johnson said.
The Town of Ranchester must provide a 15 percent match for the Community Readiness grant, bringing the total project cost to approximately $1.15 million, Johnson said. The $172,500 match can consist of in-kind and cash contributions to the project.
Once a contract is signed, designing, bidding and building the project will commence.
“If things go according to plan, our goal is to be complete by end of 2014,” Johnson said.
The SLIB board consists of Wyoming’s five statewide elected officials: Gov. Matt Mead, Secretary of State Max Maxfield, State Treasurer Mark Gordon, State Auditor Cynthia Cloud and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill. The board approved more than $10.5 million worth of Business Ready Community grant requests in January that were recommended for approval by the Wyoming Business Council in December.