CHEYENNE – Developers of the 15th Street Railroad Experience heard both community concerns and support at a public comment session Wednesday.
The project is in the early stages of planning, and Visit Cheyenne CEO Domenic Bravo said officials want as much stakeholder involvement as possible. His visitors bureau is spearheading the project in partnership with the Downtown Development Authority, as well as the city of Cheyenne.
“We want to add a high impact enhancement to our community that aligns with a lot of the folks here in this room,” Bravo told attendees. “If you have business on 15th Street, we want to make sure that you are seeing you’re a part of it.”
Bravo said the purpose of the visitor experience is to celebrate Cheyenne’s railroad heritage, turn the city into the “Railroad Capitol” destination, support and expand events throughout the year at the Cheyenne Depot and connect downtown to Reed Avenue and West Edge projects.
He explained the concept for the 15th Street Railroad Experience alongside Plan One/Architects Vice President Taylor Lee and Associate Principal Britt Morgan. The plan has three phases they hope to implement within the coming years.
The first is guaranteed with an $800,000 economic development grant through the American Rescue Plan Act. A faux line would be installed along 15th Street, and the connection between Capitol and Carey avenues would be closed off. Lee said 15th Street would be turned into a one-way from Carey Avenue to Bent Avenue, and the Greater Cheyenne Greenway would likely be integrated, creating pocket parks.
Three railway cars would then be relocated to the area next to the Cheyenne Depot Museum, as well as the locomotive from the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens.
“We wanted to revitalize and rearrange that area, and then add some of the new elements with the first train cars,” Lee said.
Developers said they imagined the refurbished train cars will follow all the way down 15th Street, which plays into phase two. They want to create a restaurant plaza and work with potential tenants for the trains, and construct a central restroom building. Morgan said there’s also the opportunity to review locations for sculpture placement.
To make this vision become reality, Bravo said it would likely cost $5 million for phases one and two. This doesn’t include the final vision for the 15th Street Railroad Experience.
The final phase of the project would involve major support from Union Pacific. The planners described building a sky bridge connecting the Cheyenne Depot to the roundhouse, similar to a concept in Laramie.
“You’re just right over an active rail, and you’re watching trains go by,” Lee said. “That could be a really awesome destination for tourism.”
FeedbackLocal government officials, business owners and residents all attended the meeting to listen and discuss the project.
While many said they were excited for the economic growth it could bring, there were concerns with the construction logistics. Bravo assured them it was a joint effort, and it would not go without collaboration from the community.
Parking and turning 15th Street into a one-way going toward the West Edge were two of the largest issues he said were brought to his attention. There are many businesses that rely on the parking along the street, and also gain access from a two-way street.
“Chronicles Distilling loves the idea of the beautification and the advancement of 15th Street, but wants to make sure that other businesses and parking needs are met for the future,” business owner Chase Lesher told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.
City Council member Jeff White also shared his only concern with the project, saying it wasn’t with phases one or two. He said he is wary of the continued desire for the skywalk, because its success is entirely dependent on Union Pacific approving the connection to the railroad’s roundhouse.
Otherwise, he said he was thrilled with the vision for the 15th Street Railroad Experience.
“If we’re successful with it, it will just continue to be a draw for downtown,” he said. “You’ll see a lot more traffic.”