A missile stands on display near Gate 1 of F.E. Warren Air Force Base on Monday, Sept. 30, 2019. Nadav Soroker/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE – Plans to develop land south of F.E. Warren Air Force Base to provide additional housing for airmen moved forward Wednesday when the Wyoming Business Council Board of Directors freed up $400,000 in grant funding for the city of Cheyenne to begin its designs for the project.

The project to build housing and commercial developments on a 74-acre plot of land just south of the base between Happy Jack Road and Old Happy Jack Road gained initial approval from the State Loan and Investment Board in June 2018. The board then awarded a $3 million Business Ready Community grant and a roughly $1.3 million loan for the project.

Those funds normally cannot be used until the city annexes the land, completes an environmental review and executes a lease. However, through the decision made by the Business Council board Wednesday, $400,000 of the $3 million grant will be available for the city to use before the completion of all the requirements.

During the meeting, Heather Tupper, the southeast regional director for the council, said it was a bit of a “chicken and egg situation” keeping the city from moving forward with its design plans.

“The budget originally did call for the use of some of the grant award to help with the design, specifically for that water and sewer infrastructure,” Tupper said. “Without being able to access that money, the city of Cheyenne isn’t able to pay for that outside of this grant. It’s just stuck.”

Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr, who attended the meeting, said she was thrilled to be able to move forward with the plan following the board’s unanimous decision.

“We really needed to separate out some money to get that design work going, and so this is going to kick us off,” Orr said.

The city is also facing some timeline pressures with the project. With the ground-based nuclear missiles at F.E. Warren and two other bases set to be replaced in the coming years, the level of economic development and infrastructure at each base will decide which location gets its missiles replaced first.

“Those decisions will be made relatively soon, so it’s important for the city of Cheyenne and F.E. Warren to address some of the concerns for workforce housing sooner rather than later,” Tupper said.

Though the discussion of the project has been focused on the housing units it will provide, the land would also be developed to include commercial areas, though specific plans have yet to be hashed out.

“We believe that this development project is going to be fantastic, not only for our military community, but essentially for the city of Cheyenne. We’re going to have a really great housing and commercial area just right off of (Interstate) 25,” Orr said.

Orr said the city is currently in the process of annexing the 74-acre plot of land, and she added she hopes to see construction begin as soon as possible.

“We really are at a critical housing situation and need within the community with members of our military community, and we need to have them moving here, so we’re really excited for this housing project,” Orr said.

Tom Coulter is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s state government reporter. He can be reached at tcoulter@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3124. Follow him on Twitter at @tomcoulter_.

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