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Cheyenne Starts Work on New 80-Acre “Hitching Post Plaza”

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

They said it wouldn’t happen. But, it’s happening.

Cheyenne’s Hitching Post Inn, once the second-seat of government in Wyoming behind only the state Capitol and currently a burned out shell following a decade of neglect, is coming back.

The City of Cheyenne was joined by Banner Capital Bank and Swagger Construction at a press conference Wednesday afternoon to announce a joint collaboration that will result in a new 80-acre development called the “Hitching Post Plaza”.

The development, which includes a hotel, restaurants, retail outlets, and even a residential area, is already underway with demolition and environmental remediation happening now. 

Work on the demolition of the blighted existing property began last week when Cheyenne Mayor Patrick Collins, Banner Bank CEO and President Richard Petersen and Swagger Construction President Robert Chamberlin broke some of the bricks marking what remains of the old Hitching Post.

Cheyenne City Council President Jeff White, who represents Ward One — home to the remaining shell of the landmark — was emotional when discussing the weight of Wednesday’s announcement.

“We didn’t just lose a building when the Hitching Post burned, we lost a part of our identity,” White said. “To see this literally rise from the ashes, I’m really happy about it.”

“We all have a story about the Hitching Post when we were kids,” Ward One council member Scott Roybal said. “It’s just exciting to see we are going forward with this.”

The property was first developed in 1927 and shortly thereafter became the place to be during Wyoming’s legislative sessions and Cheyenne Frontier Days.

It fell into disrepair after the longtime owners sold the property in 2006 and then became the target of several fires — at least one of those the result of arson. The city finally condemned the area in early 2021.

“There have been many redevelopment efforts but nothing resulted from any of them,” White said.

How It All Happened

White said what made the difference this time was that all the city council members and new Mayor Patrick Collins identified rehabilitation of the area as one of the city’s top priorities.

Sharing that desire to clean up the property was Swagger Construction’s Chamberlin.

Chamberlin had an idea how to redevelop the site and took it to Banner Bank President Petersen.  

After sharing the plan with his banking colleague Richard Braithwaite, Braithwaite told Petersen how Banner could do it.

“He took one look at it and said ‘This thing screams for TIF (Tax Increment Financing),’” he said, referring to a public financing method that cities use for redevelopment, infrastructure, and other community-improvement projects.

“We went up and talked to the mayor and the response and the support from the city council was amazing,” Petersen said.

The council approved an ordinance creating a TIF District and the wheels were set in motion.

“I’m thoroughly convinced that without this public/private partnership, problems of this magnitude would not be solved,” White said.  “It’s a great day for Cheyenne and the only day that’s going to beat it is when we are back together in the spring putting shovels in the ground.”

Council member Pete Laybourn said the details of financing the project were “daunting.”

“This was extremely complex,” he said. “I compliment everyone involved. It took a long time and a lot of effort and we’ve come a long way.”

The Hitching Post Plaza

Chamberlin said it was important to him to honor the site by keeping the name “Hitching Post” because so many people in the community felt close to the original hotel.

“Everyone I talk to has some sort of connection to the Hitching Post,” he said, noting that many people told him they went to prom there.

White raised his hand as did Councilman Brian Cook. Later, Dr. Michelle Aldridge, a Ward Three councilperson said she also attended prom at the Hitching Post — and is still married to her prom date.

To that end, Chamberlin said he was going to save the existing Hitching Post sign.

“The goal is to renovate the sign and get it back to its glory days,” he said. “So that is still the staple of going into the development.

“That’s great news,” White said.

Timeline

Chamberlin said there are multiple phases to the redevelopment. Right now, work is being done on asbestos abatement and demolition. If weather holds up, he said, that could be done in two months.

“The biggest goal now is to knock those buildings down and getting them disposed of before we get too deep into the fall,” he said.  “Then we’re going to go vertical in the spring.”

Petersen pointed out that a hotel is already being built in the TIF boundaries where the old Atlas Motel once stood.

He said there has been a lot of interest in the site already.  

“I don’t think there’s going to be a shortage of demand,” he said.

As for the long-term benefit to the area, Petersen said the economic impact would be in the neighborhood of $40 – $50 million. 

Councilman Cook said there are many examples of a blighted property being turned around, followed by an immediate positive impact in the surrounding area. He pointed to the investment made by “Warehouse 21” — an advertising and marketing company in the West Edge — and the subsequent uptick in the area.

Roybal agreed, saying the redevelopment will open the western edge of town — an area hit hard in recent years — for economic growth.

“It’s really exciting,” Roybal said. “This is going to clean up this end of Lincolnway and bring in other businesses.”

Momentum

Laybourn said Wednesday’s announcement is another victory for Ward One constituents.

The “father of the Greenway,” as he has been called for championing the 40 mile pathway that connects neighborhoods throughout the community, said this project, along with the West Edge revitalization plan, the Reed Avenue corridor project and the Crow Creek restoration plan is proof that good government is possible.

“This is huge for Cheyenne and huge for Ward One and I couldn’t be more pleased,” Laybourn said.  

Roybal was already looking ahead.

“This one’s in the books,” Roybal said. “So now we just have to find someone to buy ‘the hole’ and the Hynds building.”

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Wyoming Landmark “Hitching Post Inn” Purchased & To Be Demolished in Weeks; New Hotel Planned

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

A Wyoming institution turned Wyoming cesspool may finally be getting another chance at life.

The Hitching Post Inn, once the after-hours center of the universe for the Wyoming State Legislature for decades before becoming a crime-ridden dumping ground in the last 15 years, will finally be torn down.

Cheyenne City Councilman Jeff White on Thursday announced the property has been purchased by an outside ownership group and new construction is expected to follow soon after demolition.

“We hope to see demolition of the remaining properties begin in the next couple of weeks,” White said.

The councilman said he was optimistic that new construction could start in 2022.

“The new owner wants to build another hotel, some retail space, and some housing,” White told KGWN-TV.  “For longtime residents like me, that land has a lot of sentimental value. There will never be another Hitching Post but I’m glad that this land is going to be restored and improved.”

White said today’s news was a culmination of much work by all the members of the Cheyenne City Council, who unanimously agreed, back in January, that taking care of the blighted property was its top priority. 

To that end, the council worked with the City of Cheyenne to create an Urban Renewal Authority which made the property more attractive for outside investment.

Katye Brown, President of the Urban Renewal Authority Board in Cheyenne, told Cowboy State Daily she was optimistic about the property’s future because the developer is “committed to revitalizing this iconic Cheyenne property” and about other like projects.

“We are so excited to help developers get over the final hump in reviving vacant properties in the community,” Brown said. “The Hitching Post is the perfect project to kick things off, and is the first of many projects the URA will take on.”

Wyoming’s Second Capitol

The property, dubbed “Wyoming’s Second Capitol” by author and historian Sue Castaneda, fell into disrepair shortly after longtime owner Paul Smith, whose family built the original establishment in 1927, sold the hotel.

Then many setbacks occurred — including an arson-caused fire in September, 2010 — and it never bounced back. Instead, it continued to deteriorate until the City of Cheyenne finally condemned it earlier this year.

Mike Moser, executive director of the Wyoming Liquor Association and one of the state’s best known lobbyists, welcomed the news.

“The Hitching Post was the center of the legislative universe,” Moser said. “That’s where much of Wyoming’s history was made. Sure, lawmakers voted in the Capitol. But you got a lot of votes at the Hitch.”

 “It’s beyond time that this property was resurrected,” he said. “I’m very pleased with today’s announcement. As soon as the new hotel is built, I’ll be happy to buy the first round.”

Jonathan Downing, another longtime government relations consultant, had his office at “The Hitch” — one of the most coveted locations for setting up shop in the lobbying world.

“When I worked for the Wyoming Contactors Association, our offices were just off the lobby and a great location to ‘conveniently’ bump into legislators as they checked into the hotel,” he said.

Downing said having one primary location for all of the legislators to go after hours created an atmosphere of camaraderie.

“It was very much like family, and as a family if you were fighting with your sibling over a bill, you still had to sit at the ‘table’ together whether it be breakfast, happy hour or receptions,” he said. 

“It is that atmosphere which I hope we can get back to as a Wyoming community, that Hitching Post atmosphere instilled the Wyoming civility for which we are known and a civility I trust we will see in the future,” he said.

Jonah Energy Executive Vice President Paul Ulrich, like Moser and Downing, was pleased with the announcement.

“For decades, you went to the Hitching Post to get things done,” Ulrich said. “I spent many a night at The Hitch during legislative sessions and those were great memories.”

“I’m looking forward to the new hotel and to Mike Moser, for the first time in his life, buying a round,” he said.

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Cheyenne’s Hitching Post Inn Is On Fire — Again

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By Jimmy Orr and Jim Angell

The former hub of Wyoming’s off-hours legislative activity — Cheyenne’s Hitching Post — is on fire again.

The hotel, for decades the place where Wyoming’s legislators spent their evenings, caught fire overnight in Cheyenne.

“The Hitching Post on West Lincolnway is currently on fire, with fire crews hard at work,” Cheyenne’s Police Department said. “Please avoid the area (including Lincolnway from Missile Drive to Westland Road) due to heavy smoke causing limited visibility on the roads as well as breathing hazards.”

If this sounds like a broken record, it is.

The shuttered hotel, which fell into disrepair after Cheyenne hotelier Paul Smith passed on in 2006, has been damaged in numerous blazes — including an arson-caused fire in 2010 that destroyed most of the sprawling building on Cheyenne’s west side.

“Investigators found that because [the owners] didn’t have enough money to complete renovations on the property, Dharia and his partner hired a third person to destroy the Hitching Post and collect the proceeds from the insurance policy, the sentencing order states,” reported the Wyoming Tribune Eagle in 2018.

After the fire in 2010, the hotel’s few remaining structures were used as low-cost lodging. However, conditions continued to deteriorate and the city of Cheyenne condemned the areas still in use as a hotel, ordering their demolition in 2018.

There’s not much of the hotel left because of the past fires. The outbuildings are still there — and from the available photos — seemed to be what was on fire Friday morning.

Dozens of fire and police vehicles were at the scene Friday morning. High winds were making the job of extinguishing the blaze more difficult.

Steph Smith, niece of the late owner, said she believes this is at least the fourth fire at the hotel.

“This is at least the third fire there. I know there was one in June 1965, then of course 2010 and now. I think there was a fourth fire, but I am not sure,” Smith said on a Facebook post.

Smith’s recollection is correct. A smaller fire at the Hitching Post was reported in August, 2019.

One mainstay of the hotel was the presence of entertainer Michael DeGreve. Cowboy State Daily caught up with DeGreve last year in Las Vegas where he continues to entertain.

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