Rogerson Hotel wall downtown plaza

The wall along the side of Fashion 15 Below sits barren Tuesday in downtown Twin Falls. The wall has been planned for a mural but the building owner wants to renovate the building to replace the section of wall with an entrance into the plaza.

PAT SUTPHIN TIMES-NEWS

TWIN FALLS — When Erin Rigel learned two days ago of a plan to renovate the building she’s leasing, it came as a shock.

In August, Rigel, the owner of Fashion 15 Below, signed a three-year lease for the spot, and the last she’d heard, the building owner’s plans for renovation were going to happen a couple years from now. But on Wednesday, the Urban Renewal Agency approved a deal that would push that renovation up to January.

Rigel uses the space for her online order pickups. Up to 200 people pick up their orders there every day.

“It’s not just a warehouse space,” she said, noting that she has more than $100,000 of merchandise inside.

The URA voted 6-1 to deed a portion of the old Rogerson Hotel wall to the owner of 147 Main Ave. E., allowing her to construct an entrance facing the downtown plaza during a major renovation of the building. Board members were, however, conflicted about the potential impact this would have on Fashion 15 Below.

“As important as it is to refurbish businesses, we also need to keep businesses,” URA chairman Dan Brizee said. “Retention is as important as redevelopment.”

After the URA’s decision, Rigel spoke with her landlord, Debra Gates. Gates said she plans to accommodate Rigel’s business and continue with her lease — although long-term plans show the building housing a potential restaurant.

In the short-term, Rigel will need to decide how she will cope with the front of her building being under construction come Jan. 2.

“I’m going to have to figure out in the next couple of weeks on what we’re going to do,” Rigel said. She approves of the building’s proposed look.

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147 Main Ave. E. design

The design for 147 Main Ave. E. shows a mezzanine with balconies overlooking Main Avenue and the downtown commons. Colby Ricks is the architect.

COURTESY OF CITY OF TWIN FALLS

The agreement signed by the URA deeds the portion of the Rogerson Hotel wall that is a supporting structure for the building. The space had been planned for a public mural, but the URA’s decision will move the mural down the wall next to five “art windows” that will be used to display public art in the downtown plaza at Main Avenue East and Hansen Street.

The URA owned the wall when it purchased the Rogerson, but couldn’t tear it down because of its structural importance to Gates’ building. The URA plans to refinish the wall as a public art space starting in January. As a condition with the memorandum of understanding, Gates’ exterior renovations must be completed in conjunction with work on the plaza wall.

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“That wall is one of the first items that needs to happen,” Brizee said. “It’s go time on the plaza.”

For a large portion of the meeting, the URA was hung up on whether they should allow business access directly into the plaza. URA Executive Director Nathan Murray said that it would help to create an active plaza.

The architect for the building, Colby Ricks, showed up late to the meeting after saying he hadn’t known about it. He assured that Gates did not intend to have outdoor seating for a possible future restaurant. The door was needed, however, for fire access because Gates intends to build a mezzanine on the second story.

Suzanne Cawthra cast the dissenting vote, saying she was concerned about effects to Fashion 15 Below, a successful business. She also opposed tables and chairs for the restaurant going out in the plaza.

Gates plans a renovation valued more than $300,000. The project aims to open up the building to a variety of uses, such as a restaurant, coffee shop or office space.

The tax revenue estimated to be generated by those improvements is a couple thousand dollars a year, Murray said.

The downtown plaza is slated to be completed next spring with a restroom facility and splash pad.

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