After sorting out the details with insurance companies and finalizing the site design, Laramie Vision Clinic is starting construction on a new building in its original location on the 400 block of Second Street. While the fire that destroyed the original building in 2014 was a tragedy, Garrett Howell, the full-time optometrist at Laramie Vision Clinic, said it feels good to finally be moving forward with the new building and the opportunity for continued business growth.
As the clinic worked on insurance negotiations and redesign of the building, it relocated to a temporary location at 313 Second St. Once construction started in late February, Howell said the clinic was dedicating itself “to becoming reinvested in Laramie.”
“We’re going on five years in a temporary place, so it’s obviously much longer than we’d ever thought we’d have to do,” Howell said. “To actually see some progress happening, see some dirt getting moved around and some things getting built; it does a lot of good for your hope to actually see that your vision for the future is happening.”
The building originally featured two apartments on the second story, but Howell said it will now be one single story due to some design concerns. Howell added the building will still try to match the look and feel of the area of downtown despite the design changes.
Despite losing space upstairs, Howell said the clinic’s new building will be larger than the original space, with room for added patient rooms and retail space for lenses. The extra space for growth is one of the few “silver linings” to the whole situation, Howell said, especially since business has seen a lot of growth at the temporary location.
“It allows us the opportunity to plan for the future, whereas before we started out with something reasonable at the time,” Howell said. “It was an inevitability that we would have had to renovate and expand anyway.”
Another challenge that held up construction, Howell said, was getting the finances in order to essentially construct a whole new building, since the original collapsed after what many considered one of the worst fires in downtown Laramie in the last 20 years.
“Building a big commercial building like this is really expensive, and recently the building costs have gone up quite a bit,” Howell said. “But we’ve got that sorted out.”
During and after the fire and building collapse, Howell said the community and especially downtown business owners really supported the clinic, even beyond putting up with “a hole in the downtown scenery” for the last few years.
“To a certain degree, I think they’re almost as excited about it as we are,” Howell said. “It’s a group of people that have pride for where they live, and just like any small community — any Wyoming community in general — people look for opportunities to help each other out.”
The construction is being handled by Reiman Corp., and Howell said they expect to be finished with the project as early as fall 2019.
“They’re ambitious as far as how quickly they want to get this done,” Howell said.
Howell added a grand re-opening of the new building at the old location will be scheduled for the fall so the public can see the space, Howell said.