Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Plaza is dream come true

I know I was not the only one thrilled to hear the news that the city of Ketchum has a pending deal to purchase the Mountain West Bank property on East Avenue as part of the development of a town plaza.

With the city now owning the entire block between Sun Valley Road and Fourth Street, it can create a wonderfully inviting central community gathering space as the centerpiece of a revitalized downtown Ketchum. In fact, the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau is already working with the city and the Community Development Corporation on creating more events and activities for the town plaza/East Avenue area when construction on Fourth Street is completed by July.

This vision of a town plaza has been many years in the making and it is very exciting to see it transition into reality. I remember nearly 10 years ago when I first got to town, a private developer was proposing a very large commercial building on the portion of the property that now features the interim town plaza park and parking lot, which at that time was privately owned by Wells Fargo Bank. During a public meeting a local resident stood up and said, "What we really need on that site is a park, a central square in the heart of town," and I thought to myself, he is absolutely right.

Having spent over a decade previously in Jackson, Wyo., which has a lovely quiet square in the middle of a very busy town, and having traveled enough to find a "piazza" even in the smallest of communities, it was clear to me (and many others) that Ketchum needed that kind of place, too. So, even though it was hard to lose the visitor center on Main Street when the city did the land swap with Wells Fargo Bank a few years back, we knew that, ultimately, if there was a way to make it happen, that the best possible place for the CVB & Visitor Information Center to be located would be right in the heart of town on the edge of a new town plaza: just where you would expect to find a visitor information center anywhere you travel.

In 2004, the Ketchum City Council had the vision to secure the Giacobbi Square parking lot property as a step towards a larger goal, and now with the pending purchase of the Mountain West Bank property (and possible redevelopment) as well as the reconstruction of the Fourth Street Heritage Corridor, our current city leaders are taking action to create a significant lasting legacy for the town of Ketchum. It is just one of the many improvements they are making to the city that those who live here and those who visit will all be able to enjoy for decades to come.

Carol Waller

Executive director

Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau

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