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Despite a few business closures, downtown Idaho Falls thrives

March 16,2017 11:10

The Coopers thought they could repair the damage and keep the business going. Once plumbers got to work, they discovered more leaks. The Coopers decided it was time to shut the doors. "It just wasn't what we expected," Jim said. The doors of the ...and more »

A long-standing piece of downtown Idaho Falls is undergoing some changes. Park Avenue Antique Mall will soon be closing its doors, but the building likely won't sit empty for too long."This is has been wonderful," owner Jeanne Cooper said. "We have a lot of memories here."After nearly 20 years in the Oddfellows Building in downtown Idaho Falls, Jeanne and her husband, Jim, are retiring. They hadn't planned on retiring quite yet, but Old Man Winter had other ideas. In January, an ice jam sent water into the building. The Coopers thought they could repair the damage and keep the business going. Once plumbers got to work, they discovered more leaks. The Coopers decided it was time to shut the doors."It just wasn't what we expected," Jim said.The doors of the building won't be locked for good. The name might change, though. The Coopers are planning to renovate the building built in 1908, returning it back to its original condition."We will take down all the false walls, turn the building back into the 1910s," Jim said. "There will be like four or five colors in this main floor area of the building. What we are going to try and do is rent out the building. In parallel with renting out the building, we can also put it up for sale."The Coopers still have a few more items to sell before closing for good. They are already getting offers from businesses and developers who want to make the store theirs."We have the possibility of dividing the retail area of the building, which is the main floor, into three different sections," Jim said. "We have a restaurant that is interested in the building, not only just to put the restaurant in, but to also purchase the building. We also have a developer from Washington, D.C. that frequents Idaho Falls often and he's interested in it and we've had two or three Realtors bring in some clients to look at the building as well and we haven't even put it on the market."While the Cooper's shop won't stay vacant for long, the future of other downtown store fronts remain uncertain. Across from Park Avenue Antiques is The Collective Cachet which already closed its doors. It is currently undergoing renovations.  The owners also own Grape Van Gogh, currently near the Grand Teton Mall. The couple told KIFI/KIDK in December they plan to move that business to the upstairs part of The Collective Cachet's current building on Park Street after they finish renovations. It is unclear what will be housed on the main floor of the building."Businesses can come and go anywhere," Idaho Falls' Community Development Director Brad Cramer said. "Whether that is downtown, 17th Street, or the mall. Businesses come and go and the fact that businesses come and go is not an indicator of how businesses are doing."Cramer said despite a few closures across downtown the area is thriving, with the lowest vacancy rate it has seen in years. The area is the top area of town for generating taxes in the city. Community leaders are looking at ways to attract and retain businesses."Are there things that we can talk about or do that make it a little bit more business friendly in terms of remodeling and reconstruction, redevelopment?" Cramer said.For the past several months, city leaders have been working with an architect out of Salt Lake City to come up with a long-term plan for redevelopment in the downtown area. The goal of the new plans would be to bring life back into the historic part of town. In preliminary plans presented to the city, architects hope to build on the uniqueness of downtown Idaho Falls and find a way to work the proximity to the Snake River into the design."One of the things we are looking at specifically is how to connect the river to the downtown," Cramer said when discussing the project in January. "We want to find a way to pull people from the river into downtown and vice-versa and really make the connection. Is that pedestrian connection? Is it the events? We are looking at the tools to connect the two."According to Cramer, the architect is reconstructing plans after getting feedback from the community members. Cramer hopes to have those back before he makes his budget for the next fiscal year. Once they are back, downtown business owners will be given an opportunity to review the plans before a final decision is made.

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