Friday, October 1, 2004

Ketchum landmark faces final days

Main Street visitors center to be demolished this month

Express Staff Writer

Work continued this week on a new visitor center for the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau. The new facility is located in the Copper Ridge building, on Washington Avenue in Ketchum. Photo by David N. Seelig

Visitors to Ketchum will soon have to travel to Washington Avenue to get information on shopping, lodging and activities in the area.

Carol Waller, executive director of the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau, said this week that the organization plans to vacate its visitor center at the corner of Main and Fourth streets by the middle of the month.

As the facility is being decommissioned for demolition by the city, the Chamber is preparing to open a new visitor and information center in the Copper Ridge building, at the corner of Washington Avenue and Second Street.

Waller said the move will take place ?immediately following? the city?s annual Trailing of the Sheep Festival the weekend of Oct. 8. The new facility one block west of Main Street will likely be open to the public by Oct. 15, she said.

Waller said she expects to see fewer walk-in visitors at the new location.

?It is going to lessen our ability to serve people,? she said. ?I think the long term solution would be to be more visi-ble.?

Waller noted that the Chamber has been given additional funds from the city to cover the costs of the move but has nonetheless incurred some unforeseen expenses.

The relocation of the visitor center was prompted earlier this year, when the city agreed to trade the land on which the facility is located for another piece of land on the east side of Main Street.

The city?-which owns the parcel at Main and Fourth?-plans to demolish the visitor center and old city hall located on the site before the end of the month.

City Council members Wednesday, Sept. 29, approved an approximately $15,000 plan to remove any asbestos in the buildings and subsequently demolish them. Councilwoman Terry Tracy cast a single vote against the plan.

Ron LeBlanc, city administrator, said Wednesday that ?all that remains in the old city hall is some brochures and some derelict furniture.?

LeBlanc said the chamber of commerce for the city of Salmon has requested permission to save and relocate the visitor center building. The city will allow the building to be salvaged if the project is feasible, he said.

The city is planning to clear the site pursuant to a deal reached this summer with Wells Fargo Bank, which is slated to become the new owner of the Main and Fourth parcel.

The deal calls for the city to acquire a vacant piece of land directly south of the Giacobbi Square shopping center, at the corner of Fourth Street and East Avenue, in exchange for the city parcel at 411 N. Main St., plus cash.

In the future, city officials will have to consider whether they will build a new facility to welcome tourists into town or a new set of public bathrooms to replace those located at the visitor center.

Mayor Ed Simon has said he envisions developing the now-vacant Wells Fargo parcel into a public park with rest-rooms and an underground parking garage.

Waller this week said she now supports the concept of developing the vacant parcel?-which is now a parking lot?-into a ?town square? that could include a new, more visible visitor center.

Ultimately, the mayor said, the decision on how to use the Wells Fargo site will rest with the City Council, which is slated to hold a series of public hearings on the matter before any decision is made.

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