Tuesday , April 19, 2016 - 6:00 AM30 comments
OGDEN — An independent consultant has found that a nine-block section of inner-city Ogden has a major blight problem and should qualify for the city’s urban renewal program.
In October, Ogden city hired business management consultant Bonneville Research to examine blight conditions in an east-central area of the city extending from 23rd to 26th streets between Madison and Jackson avenues. The city commissioned the study to determine whether the area, which is being called the “Oak Den” study area, had enough decay to be designated as an urban renewal area.
In a letter sent to the city on March 14, Bonneville Research indicated the nine-block Oak Den area has a significant blight problem.
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The letter, which is signed by Bonneville Research President Jonathan Springmeyer, says the present condition of the area “impairs the sound growth of the municipality,” “constitutes an economic liability” and is “detrimental to the public health, safety or welfare.”
Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell said the study’s findings are staggering. Of the 413 properties evaluated in the area, 328, or 79 percent of them, were dilapidated. More than 80 percent of the properties failed to meet building, safety, health or fire code requirements and 88 percent had unsanitary or unsafe conditions.
The study found that there are just over 84 acres in the area, but 23 percent of that acreage is vacant or abandoned. The study also found that criminal activity is 216 percent higher than comparable areas that don’t have as much blight.
Caldwell said the east-central area of Ogden has long been a focal point of the city. The mayor said his administration wants to encourage owner-occupancy in the area, saying home ownership not only creates individual investments in the city, but it also allows those stuck in inter-generational poverty to build equity.
Ogden city plans to hold a public hearing on the matter during a city Redevelopment Agency meeting at 6 p.m. May 24 at the Ogden Municipal Building, 2549 Washington Blvd. At the hearing, findings from the study will be presented and residents and property owners in the study area will be allowed to make public comment.
The city sent notification letters to property owners and other stakeholders on March 22.
The city’s redevelopment agency board, made up of members of the city council, will likely vote whether or not to establish the area as an urban renewal area, or URA, on the same night.
According to city council documents, a URA is the most rigorous of the three types of redevelopment programs the city performs. Unlike economic or community development areas, a URA allows for eminent domain under certain circumstances.
But before the program can be established, state code requires that the city complete a parcel-by-parcel blight study of the area. The code also requires certain criteria to be met — like 50 percent of the private property and 66 percent of total private acreage must be blighted — before a URA can be set up.
State law also establishes parameters on what constitutes blight — greenfield or agricultural parcels don’t qualify, but urban properties do.
Once a URA is established, it allows the city to apply for federal grants to complete housing projects and to offer tax incentives to the developers that build there.
Caldwell said the Oak Den Bungalow subdivision, which was built on a blighted patch of land in the project area in 2014, is an example of how neighborhoods can be transformed. The subdivision was funded by Utah Housing Corp., Community Development Block Grant funds and Ogden City capital improvement project funds.
Ogden City owns and developed the subdivision. The project filled a years-vacant, mid-block area between Jackson and Quincy avenues and 23rd and 24th streets with new homes.
“That area has been completely revitalized,” he said. “It’s an example of what we can do.”
You can reach reporter Mitch Shaw at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 801-625-4233. Follow him on Twitter at @mitchshaw23 or like him on Facebook.
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