Buildings show 'can-do' community spirit

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The economy is far from back on its feet, but it doesn't take much looking around to find hopeful signs among local construction projects.

Few, if any, result from the Washington stimulus package; but instead spring from an irrepressible sense of optimism among Southwest Nebraskans.

Surrounded by caution tape and with a disposal shoot stretching to the top floor, the Keystone project in downtown McCook is hard to miss, especially while attending a community event at the revitalized Fox Theatre.

Demolition work on the inside has been completed, and the building will next get new interior downspouts and windows on a 14-month trip to becoming a business hub anchored by 21st Century Systems Inc.

A proposal for a downtown diner didn't win the recent Hormel Foundation Business Plan Competition, but that seems to us to be a good compliment to the two eating establishment already in place "on the bricks" north of B Street, as well as replacing a cafe that recently closed.

While the Keystone project amounts to about a $4 million investment, another recent Gazette front page reported two other projects, costing more than twice and about five times as much to build, respectively.

The first was $8.7 million in state funding for a new education center at the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture, made possible by the generosity of George Garlick, who agreed to construct a dormitory, and the cooperation of the City of Curtis, which agreed to allow the college to use the new community center for athletic events, freeing up the former gymnasium for remodeling into a student activities center.

The second was a major remodeling project for Community Hospital, which will cost roughly $20 million -- more precise figures await the input of planners and architects -- and provide larger, more usable room for patients, surgery and outpatient procedures. That project is expected to begin this fall and take more than two years to complete, but patient services will not be interrupted in the process, according to hospital officials.

Construction is expected to start this fall, about the same time construction begins on the new $8.5 million Guard and Reserve Readiness Center at the airport.

Taking shape more quickly is a new urgent care clinic under construction on North U.S. Highway 83 in McCook.

And, the McCook College Foundation is making regular announcements of major donors to the new $10 million activities center on the McCook Community College campus. That complex promises to pay huge benefits both to the college in terms of recruitment and students' college experience, and to the community at large by serving as a venue for many types of activities.

And those are just a few of the major projects under way around the area. Congratulations to all involved for keeping up that "can-do" spirit.

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