Temple crowds a challenge for Ogden locals

Friday , August 01, 2014 - 9:47 PM

OGDEN — Ogden’s population is expected to increase by three-quarters of a million people during the next month, and while those temporary residents will pack the city’s downtown, officials say the crowds shouldn’t discourage locals from joining the horde.

Downtown Ogden was noticeably busier Friday, as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began what will be a five-week open house period for the newly renovated Ogden temple. The open house will run until Sept. 6, and the temple will be open for visitors each day of the week except Sunday.

The city expects at least 750,000 visitors to converge on the downtown area during the next five weeks, which means restaurants and other businesses in The Junction and along 25th Street will be busier, parking will be harder to come by and local streets and traffic patterns will be rerouted.

The city has approximately 3,700 parking stalls within a 10-minute walk of the temple. Currently two open lots to the north and east of the temple are available for parking throughout the event and an additional unfinished lot north of the FrontRunner parking area is also available for overflow parking. The city also expects parking garages near The Junction to take some of the temple overflow.

Hoping to preserve precious vehicle parking space, the city is running a dowtown trolley from the Ogden FrontRunner station, 2350 S. Wall Ave. The trolley offers pedestrians multiple drop-off locations within the downtown area and circulates through 23rd Street, Washington Boulevard, 24th Street, 25th Street and Wall Avenue.

The shuttle will run in a continuous loop Monday through Saturday, from the morning to the evening.

During the open house, the city will close 22nd Street between Washington Boulevard and Grant Avenue to pedestrians and buses only. Grant Avenue was originally planned to become a one way street between 24th and 20th streets, but the city has opened up the street in both directions. Left-hand turns are also prohibited at several intersections near the temple.

Downtown restaurants are expected to be packed during the open house. City officials met with about 40 restaurants in Ogden and encouraged them to focus on items they know they can turn quickly and won't run out of. The restaurants have also been asked to work with their suppliers to ensure they don’t run out of anything during the rush.

While admitting there will be some adjustments, city officials say the impacts aren’t so overwhelming that they should stop locals from visiting their own downtown. 

“We’ve worked hard to accommodate traffic and parking,” said Ogden Engineer Justin Anderson. “Locals can expect to see a lot of increased traffic right around the temple, but we think it should flow pretty well. People should still be able to get around downtown, go to Raptors games, go out to eat and just do the things they normally do.”

The city has created an interactive map that provides real-time updates on traffic patterns and parking availability. The map can be found at engineering.ogdencity.com.

Mayor Mike Caldwell and Chief Administrative Officer Mark Johnson said they hope Ogden locals will frequent downtown during the open house and interact with the thousands of guests visiting the community.

“I don’t think any (local) should be shy about coming down here,” Johnson said. “There are a lot of fun things going on — fun things to see, fun things to do. Come join in the excitement.”

Though the activities hadn’t quite ramped up to full capacity, Ogden residents walking near the temple Friday morning were eager to offer opinions about the swarm on their streets. Some liked feeling the buzz surrounding the activity that has sprung up seemingly overnight, while others say they plan to avoid the area altogether.

“I think it’s pretty cool, seeing all these people in Ogden,” said Ogden resident Leonor Solano. “It just seems like it’s a big deal.”

Ogden residents Dominique Pena and Delmy Ortiz said they see both positives and negatives about the open house.

“I guess it’s good and bad,” said Pena. “It’s cool new people are coming into our city and seeing it, but it also might be a hassle going out to eat or to a movie or something.”

Directly across the street from the temple on Washington Boulevard, Ogden resident Russell Carver watched crowds gather.

“I don’t know,” he said while scoping out the swarm across the street. “Five weeks of this? I’ll probably just avoid this area all together.”

Carver said he actually worked for a few days on the temple’s landscaping as a subcontractor.

“They were painting some of the dead grass green,” he said. “It was pretty wild.”

The temple was closed in April 2011 for extensive renovation. Its entire exterior has been reshaped with new stone and glass, and the temple entrance has been moved from the west side to the east side, where it faces Washington Boulevard.

The renovation of the temple also includes reconfigured rooms and new energy-saving electrical, heating and plumbing systems. Other notable improvements include underground parking, new landscaping of the temple block and a major water feature.

After the open house, the temple will be formally rededicated in three sessions on Sept. 21, at 9 a.m., 12 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Contact reporter Mitch Shaw at 801-625-4233 or mishaw@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @mitchshaw23.

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