OGDEN -- For sale or rent: a large amount of Ogden's historical downtown.
Even as Utah's seventh-largest city continues to show signs of downtown redevelopment, the list of casualties among older buildings continues to grow.
Perhaps nowhere is the contrast more visible than at the core of the city where Ogden's tallest building, the former First Security Building at 2404 Washington Blvd., stands vacant. The building, a 12-story structure built in 1926, offers almost 80,000 square feet of space. The building is currently gutted after being caught in the middle of a revitalization project when the market went soft and the principals quit spending money on the project.
Other key structures offering a lot of empty space include the old city post office at the corner of 24th and Grant, the Union Stock Yard Exchange building at 600 Exchange Road, the Kiesel Building at 2411 Kiesel Ave., Building B from the American Can Center at 2030 Lincoln Ave. and the Virginia Building at 455 24th St.
Each of the buildings offers something unique for potential buyers, according to different sources, but they all seem to face the same challenge - finding a tenant with the means and desire to operate out of an older building.
"A lot of people find benefit in historical types of space and have affection for that kind of space. Our charm can actually attract a tenant," Dell Nichols, senior director for Commerce Real Estate Solutions, said of trying to attract buyers downtown. A native of Ogden, Nichols said the city needs an employment driver to make things happen.
The challenges are many, the opportunities are few.
"In real estate we talk about location, location and location. It's just as much about timing, timing and timing," Nichols said.
Ogden City Planner Greg Montgomery suggests some of the city's older structures offer more than is easily measured.
"You look at the things that attract people to a sense of community and those buildings have character," Montgomery said of some of the vacant buildings. For example, Montgomery said the old Exchange Building features details you would never find in a new building.
The Union Stock Yard Exchange building offers almost 29,000 square feet of Class C office space, but the structure has been vacant for almost 30 years since auctions at the stockyard ended. Weber County sold the building in December 1997.
Agent Jay Barth, of Commerce Real Estate Solutions, said the building presents a great investment opportunity for someone who can see the potential the structure offers. Built in 1938, the building has three floors of available space, with 53 offices. The building was designed by Leslie S. Hodgson, who also designed the Peery's Egyptian Theatre and Ogden High School. Barth said beside its design, the biggest attraction is a price tag of $4.60 per square foot in the structure.
The attraction for old buildings goes beyond the pricetag.
"If you take these buildings down, you take some of the character out of Ogden," Montgomery said. "You never rebuild with the same quality that you tore down. You can never afford the detail," he said.
The oldest building currently vacant is the Kiesel Building, which was built in 1913 and was formerly the home of the Standard-Examiner. The building has undergone multiple uses since the S-E moved, but comes ready for immediate use for the right tenant.
One of the advantages of moving into an older structure, according to Montgomery, is that it's ready for immediate use and seldom faces new challenges to meet building code or landscaping requirements. The Kiesel Building offers little immediate parking, but Montgomery said city planners have been trying to make downtown more walkable, so parking is a problem that can be solved.
"The problem is, some people want everything in a building," Montgomery said.
One of the more unique buildings offering some vacant space is one of the structures that made up the American Can factory, which was first opened in 1915. The original factory included seven buildings and was a vital force in the city's manufacturing base until its closure in 1979.
In 2007, two years after being added to the National Register of Historic Places, the 207,000-square-foot complex was purchased from the Ogden Community Foundation by a developer and partners from Colorado who spent $5 million to modernize and seismically retrofit some of the buildings, while maintaining some of the structure's historic features. Only one of those buildings, Building B, was not renovated and remains vacant after being gutted.
Nate Harbertson, president of PPC Commercial Real Estate Services in Ogden, said the building offers 60,000 square feet of space over three stories for the right tenant. He said they often show prospects an adjacent structure while showing the vacant factory. Building B is identical to Building D, which currently houses Amer Sports Corp, except for the renovation.
"It's pretty fun to show. It's such a unique property in comparison to everything else," Harbertson said of the structure. Being unique, however, does have its challenges. Harbertson said it doesn't make any sense to renovate the building in pieces, so he is looking for a large tenant who can take at least half the space.
Harbertson is also marketing open space in the Virginia Building, which currently has two tenants, but has at least 3,000 square feet of potential retail space for the right company. By comparison to some of the other vacant structures, the building is new age as it was built in 1956 and the front faAssade has been renovated.
But it too faces a unique challenge.
"I've shown it to a lot of people. They often say 'I'd like it if it were on Washington (Avenue). It's kind of off the beaten path,' " Harbertson said. Off the beaten path in this case is at least two blocks.
As for the old post office, Nichols, who knows the structure well, says the building offers a mixed bag to potential tenants. He said the building does not have ground access and the floor positioning is a problem for office space. Still it has an appeal that's easy to see.
"It's a great building, a great location and the kind of building every community likes to see standing," Nichols said.
Even in the current economic downturn, Montgomery sees reason to hope. He notes there also were difficult times in the early '80s and points to 25th Street, which had only eight of 45 buildings occupied at the time. With time and renovation, that quickly changed.