TWIN FALLS — Across from the new City Hall and adjacent to the future downtown commons plaza, one wall of the historic Rogerson Hotel still stands.
It wasn’t initially planned that way.
“It’s a very problematic wall,” said Leon Smith, former Urban Renewal Agency chairman.
Smith had helped to determine what, if anything, was salvageable from the Rogerson before demolition. Around that time, it was discovered that the 18-inch-thick wall not only supported the hotel, but the roof and floor of the building next door. The space at 147 Main Ave. E. is now being used for online order pickups and processing for Fashion 15 Below.
“We decided to save the wall and turn it into an art wall,” Smith said.
On Wednesday the URA will consider deeding the portion of the wall supporting the building to that building’s owner, Debra Gates. If it does, the agency will also allow her to build an entrance facing the plaza during an extensive remodel of the building.
The portion of wall had been planned for a mural, but URA staff recommends moving the mural to another part of the wall instead. The wall extends beyond the building, along the plaza.
The conflict, URA board member Perri Gardner said, has been whether that 28-foot section of wall should be for public art or for business development.
“I’m not sure the board will decide to deed that wall space,” said Gardner, who is the liaison to the downtown public art committee.
But Smith, who is the chairman of the public art committee, says it’s a workable solution.
The URA has called a special meeting for Wednesday to decide whether to sign a memorandum of understanding with Gates. The board meets at 9 a.m. in City Council Chambers, 305 Third Ave. E.
“The design compliments what the URA has planned for the commons,” said Gates, who lives in Oregon but plans to return to Idaho.
She hopes to do the work in phases coinciding with the commons work, with a reface of the front and side walls. The designs also show a balcony and a mezzanine.
Once complete, the space should have the flexibility to house a coffee shop, office spaces, a restaurant or possibly a wine bar, Gates said.
Fashion 15 owner Erin Rigel said she has a contract to lease the building until August 2020. More than 100 people per day come in to pick up online orders, she said.
Gates said the work would be phased so Rigel could move her business to the back part of the building while the front was being completed. She said she fully supports the tenant and plans to make it as convenient to her as possible.
URA Executive Director Nathan Murray said Gates’ remodeling will probably cost close to $400,000; the memorandum requires the remodeling to be at least $300,000.
“We want to accommodate her,” Murray said. “I don’t think anyone wanted to hold up potential development.”
On its own, the wall isn’t worth much, so the URA will deed that portion over to Gates for free if the board approves.
The most important thing to Gardner is that Gates’ work be completed at the same time the plaza opens.
“Certainly you can see how desirable that would be to have a balcony and a door into that plaza,” she said. “I’m looking forward to getting it resolved.”