Cheyenne’s Iconic Downtowner Hotel Rises From Central Plaza Ashes

Balconies were falling off the Central Plaza Hotel and concrete corners crumbling away when Corey Lynn and Carter Ward bought it. But today is a new day and Cheyenne's 88-room Downtowner is a new hotel.

RJ
Renée Jean

October 22, 20235 min read

Downtowner front 2 10 22 23

CHEYENNE — Balconies were falling off the Central Plaza Hotel and concrete corners crumbling away when Corey Lynn of Lynn Buys Houses and Carter Ward of Ward Insulation bought it. 

But today is a new day, and the Central Plaza is a new hotel. 

All 88 rooms have passed their official inspections after being gutted and remade into new and better spaces. Now that it’s all finished, Central Plaza Hotel will have a different name. It’s going back to the name it had when first built in 1961, The Downtowner.

Two of The Downtowner’s finished units were on display for a grand opening Friday night, and the words “wow” and “so beautiful” were heard often as members of the general public had their turn at a more informal — but perhaps more important — inspection.

They approved of the new design with its elegant simplicity. They liked the little kitchenettes with their brightly colored toasters and microwaves and the little micro-dishwashers.

Some contemplated how they might move the furniture around. Should the bed go further away from the window?

But then where would the television go?

Lynn, hearing the compliments and chatter was beaming as she looked on at a dream come true — a dream she and her co-owner had to fight for every step of the way.

  • Corey Lynn in front of one of the finished extended-stay suites at The Downtowner.
    Corey Lynn in front of one of the finished extended-stay suites at The Downtowner. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)
  • Corey Lynn talks to people attending a grand party Friday to celebrate the completion of The Downtowner.
    Corey Lynn talks to people attending a grand party Friday to celebrate the completion of The Downtowner. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)

Ready Just In Time

Only minor work remains at the hotel, most of it cosmetic, Lynn told Cowboy State Daily. 

Boxes will be placed around tubing and wires so that they’re not visible. Carpet on the second floor is still being laid.

“Part of our hope was that we would be done in April,” Lynn said. “And we would have interest-only payments at the bank until October to give us a chance to ramp up with occupancy, because it’s a hard ask to have people living in the middle of a construction zone.”

Unfortunately, there was a nine-month delay on the all-essential air conditioning and heating unit.

“That put us very far behind, so we have no ramp-up period,” Lynn said. “We are marketing hard to try and get the rooms full.”

The extended-stay hotel has 40 tenants so far — nearly 50% occupancy.

Even though it was a little behind their preferred schedule, it’s been finished just in time, Lynn feels, to provide housing for incoming workers who might be involved with the missile retrofit at F.E. Warren Air Force Base.

“What really motivated us was how many people are going to be here for the missile retrofit,” Lynn said. “And just generally workers don’t want to get into a lease staying at a hotel.”

  • The kitchenettes include a colorful toaster and a microwave, as well as a small dishwasher, a refrigerator, a sink and cabinet space.
    The kitchenettes include a colorful toaster and a microwave, as well as a small dishwasher, a refrigerator, a sink and cabinet space. (Cowboy State Daily Staff)
  • A small living room area is adjacent to the kitchenette.
    A small living room area is adjacent to the kitchenette. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)
  • Comfortable seating available in the newly finished indoor event space that also serves as a dog socializing venue.
    Comfortable seating available in the newly finished indoor event space that also serves as a dog socializing venue. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)
  • A comfortable bed in an extended-stay suite at The Downtowner.
    A comfortable bed in an extended-stay suite at The Downtowner. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)
  • An indoor space for events, including dog socializing events, has been completed behind The Downtowner.
    An indoor space for events, including dog socializing events, has been completed behind The Downtowner. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)

A Place With History

The Central Plaza originally served railroaders, who would walk up from the depot with an overnight bag.

Unfortunately, the hotel also had a very popular package liquor store — a little too popular, in fact.

Workers were coming into work hungover, or maybe even still drunk, from carousing the night before. Union Pacific told the hotel’s owners to shut the package store down.

When they refused, Union Pacific commissioned the Oak Tree on Dell Range as its new layover spot and shuttled its workers there instead.

That began a long, slow decline for the hotel.

By the time Lynn had the opportunity to buy the Central Plaza, it was in a terrible state. The garage was falling in. Balconies were falling away. Concrete foundations were crumbling.

She knew it was not far from the wrecking ball, and that the project was well beyond her expertise. She’d had a lot of experience flipping homes, but never a hotel, and never a hotel in this kind of sad shape.

That’s how her partner Ward came to be involved.

“I’m thinking about buying this hotel,” she told him. “But all this concrete is just falling down, and I don’t know what to do.”

When Ward came to inspect the place, she thought for sure he would tell her there was no hope.

Instead, he told her he’d been looking for a project just like this, that could help Cheyenne’s downtown build business and community.

A vintage postcard shows the iconic Downtown Motor Inn in Cheyenne in the 1960s.
A vintage postcard shows the iconic Downtown Motor Inn in Cheyenne in the 1960s. (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

How They Saved It

But the project was never smooth going for the two. It was a battle from day one. In the beginning, no less than 58 experts told them to just tear the hotel down and start all over again.

But Lynn couldn’t let 62 years of history in Cheyenne go. She recalled spending summers and weekends in Cheyenne with her grandparents, how the property was part of the downtown’s heartbeat.

“When I was a kid, I rode in the parade all the time, and I have vivid memories of coming right here,” Lynn said. “And there were lots of sober — and some very drunk — people hanging off the balconies, but the energy just kind of emoting from here was, even as a kid, I’m like, ‘Wow I want to go there.’”

Finally, they found two architects who thought maybe, just maybe, the hotel could be saved.

The process involved using highly durable carbon fiber wrap to girdle up the existing concrete and repair it. 

The consultants drew up plans for each problem spot — and there were a lot of problem spots — especially in the corners.

Existing corners were sanded off to prepare it for the fiber wrap so that a tight seal would form. An engineering plan specified the size and just where each piece needed to go.

“They put this coating over the top of it that sucks it all in,” Lynn said. “So that’s what brings it back to its original integrity. So, if there’s weak spots in here, now it’s just pulled it all together.”

The material is not indestructible, Ward has told Cowboy State Daily in previous interviews.

“It’s stronger than rebar, what’s inside the concrete,” he said. “It’s going to last another 100 years.”

The Downtowner ribbon 10 22 23

Renée Jean can be reached at Renee@CowboyStateDaily.com.

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RJ

Renée Jean

Business and Tourism Reporter