Downtown park

Aug 3, 2012 By Steven R. Peck

With new recommendation, planning will replace mere speculation

There are no takers so far on the City of Riverton's effort to sell the newly vacant lot at Fifth and Main downtown. Now, city administrator Weaver says he'll recommend the property be developed into a small park to be owned and maintained by the city.

The site is a curiosity, the first completely vacant city lot downtown in decades following the demolition of the abandoned filling station and dry cleaning building that had occupied it.

Everyone agrees that the lot is a prized piece of real estate, but "prized" and "realistic" are different concepts. With the lending climate as pinched as a prune these days, most people who might contemplate opening a business there would have to use their start-up cash for a bigger down payment than would have been required 10 years ago, and all they would have after liquidating their cash reserves is an empty lot.

For businesses with enough cash to purchase the site outright, there isn't an immediate, logical buyer. That's a lot of money -- $90,000 -- to lay out for use as a parking lot, and the firms adjacent to it aren't obvious candidates for expansion.

If the idea is simply to convert the property to cash, then the city certainly could wait awhile. The lot hasn't been on the market all that long compared to some real estate around town. It's not unusual for property to be listed for six months or more before selling. That could happen here.

But there is a sense that city leaders don't want to deal with a long real estate listing that could stretch into the winter, punctuated by a series of unacceptably low offers as a city-owned piece of property languishes on the market in a very visible location.

So the park idea has been revived. Mayor Ron Warpness had advocated that approach in the past. Some green space could be developed, perhaps with a bit of seating and/or a public restroom.

In theory the idea sounds nice. In reality there are concerns tied to finance, maintenance and security that will need to be addressed to the city's and the public's satisfaction if that use for the lot is to succeed.

Those concerns, which had been matters of speculation during the city's acquisition and clearing of the property, now become matters of actual discussion, planning and implementation.

But they are not insurmountable, and with forethought and commitment the development of a downtown park could bring a fine new asset to the community. Good luck as the plan moves forward.

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