On a rainy evening in east Casper, Mark Swenson was kicking the tires of a red Corvette on the lot of Fremont Motors Volkswagen.

On a rainy evening in east Casper, Mark Swenson was kicking the tires of a red Corvette on the lot of Fremont Motors Volkswagen.

“I’ll be back tomorrow,” he told Fremont VW finance manager Brian Osborne. Swenson loves Corvettes and he loves cars. He thinks it’s fun to visit “car alley” on Second Street east of Casper and see what’s there, even if nothing could match up to his own ’82 Corvette.

“I’ve loved ‘Vettes all my life,” he explained.

In a showroom further along East Second Street, also owned by Fremont Motors but featuring different Dodge vehicles, Stacy and Kevin Balster were making a deal to buy a Dodge Challenger.

They didn’t go from dealer to dealer looking at cars; they researched online and looked around for a year, then came in knowing what they wanted. An hour later they were ready to drive away in their new red Dodge with two black stripes. Still, Kevin is a fan of the idea of different car dealers lined up together; it’s more convenient for looking, he said.

Martin Lloyd, the man selling them the car, said that locating different dealers together is good for business. “People think it’s fun to look at all the cars until they find a favorite,” he said.

Now the lineup of car dealers in McMurry Business Park along East Second Street is about to get company; Foss Toyota will build a large showroom and repair center east of the Fire Rock Restaurant. A sign went up Wednesday advertising the move. Owner Jim Foss said his business has been at its East Yellowstone building since 1988.

“It’s about time to get a new facility and that (East Second Street) seems like the growth area,” he said.

The new building will be twice as big as the current one, said Foss. “We’ll have more inventory. We have been short of service bays. It will be a real plus to have more room to stock more cars,” he added.

Moving from the Yellowstone location has been a long process that had to pass muster with the Toyota officials. Foss said he has been working for 18 months to get the site approved with the manufacturers. “We had to work on how big a building, how many service stalls, the administrative square footage.

“They came up with a 120-page book of how they want the building to look so all the Toyota buildings look the same.”

Will the new showroom be different? “Night and day different from the current one,” Foss said.

And he’s already seen big changes since 1982 when Foss was located west of town along CY Avenue. “We didn’t have air conditioning or running water,” he said. “We had horses that would stick their heads in the window that you could pet.” So moving to the Yellowstone location in 1988 was a big step up.

Foss thinks that being close to other car dealers is a plus.

“It’s absolutely easier for the customers. Car dealers are competitors who go where the competition is,” he said, adding that Toyota does well in Wyoming, which is a truck-oriented state. "The Tundra (a full-sized pickup truck) is a great seller for us,” he said.

Chuck Guschewsky, president of Fremont Motors, already took the step Foss is preparing for.

He moved the Casper Dodge part of his statewide business (he is based in Lander) to East Second Street and said, “For us the Dodge store was there and it has worked exceptionally well. That’s why we built the Volkswagen store right beside it.”

Guschewsky welcomes the arrival of the Toyota dealership. “I’m glad to see others move out there, sure. The more the better. It brings more activity in general,” he said.

Rich Fairservis, CEO of Granite Peak Development, founded the McMurry Business Park with the late Neil McMurry. He has seen the east side development grow from open fields to its current location for car dealers, restaurants, a hospital, a rehabilitation center, medical office buildings and office buildings.

And more development is on the way, Fairservis said. He is working with additional restaurants, a hotel and other businesses seeking commercial space. In the 10 years since the East Second Street extension opened connecting Wyoming Boulevard to Hat Six Road, “growth has been impressive,” he said, with the exception of the “dismal years” from 2008-10.

Now Fairservis says that Casper is poised to be a regional shopping hub, reaching a population level “where a city becomes self-sustained and feeds on itself.” He said that in addition to an energy support industry that continues to be strong, Casper is a good medical community and growing. He points to the addition of Rocky Mountain Oncology, Mountain View Regional Hospital and Elkhorn Valley Rehabilitation Center east of Wyoming Boulevard. A proposed third hospital would also go in the same area.

For evidence of Casper economic health, Fairservis points to traffic, “a good steady flow,” he said. “A lot of people tend to complain about the traffic, but it’s a good thing,” he concluded, in a town that is growing.