Current Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell can remember driving down Ogden’s Historic 25th Street late one evening in the early 1990s; only it wasn’t “Historic” 25th Street back then. Instead, it was downtown Ogden. Even as a fearless and proverbially invincible young college student, he rolled up the windows and locked the doors.
Ogden City had the reputation of being the terrifying and dilapidated crime capital of our pretty, great state. Then we were chosen to host the 2002 Olympics. It put us on the map; us being Ogden City. I am proudly including myself in that mix. Although my home address is not in Ogden, since I own property in Ogden, and both of my offices are in Ogden, I spend far more time there than at home.
Fortunately, city leaders with vision caught the momentum that was created by the Olympics and began heavy recruiting. The timing was critical. Outdoor manufacturing companies began to seriously consider calling Ogden City their new home. The enthusiasm for outdoor recreation in this area attracted national attention before it even caught the attention of locals. World class ski resorts, beautiful canyons and mountains, and rivers are just a few of nature’s gifts to the area. Where else can one fish, raft, boat, hike, bike, attend concerts, stroll art galleries, go boutique shopping or antiquing, enjoy local eateries and shop outdoor with their pets all in within nearly walking distance? (For the record, I won’t actually walk to Snowbasin or Pineview ... but it is only a 20-minute drive). And if walking isn’t fast enough, running is always an option; we have the Ogden Marathon, a renowned event nationwide and a qualifier for the Boston Marathon.
Ogden has truly come a long way, baby. Back in the day — Mayor Caldwell’s day, not mine; mine was way before his — 35 of the 43 buildings on 25th Street were vacant. Two months ago, a ground level space became available on 25th Street and I found myself in a bidding war to purchase it. Just in the last year, there has been a 20% reduction in crime. Years of hard work in revitalization has been paying off. Both commercial and residential real estate is on the rise. There is only one other Utah city that even comes close to mirroring what we have here, and according to Mayor Caldwell, “Park City is taking notes.” They should. We do, however, have one huge advantage that they do not ... affordable housing.
As part of the revitalization effort, Ogden has renovated 180 homes through the Own in Ogden program. The Good Landlord Program, instituted in 2004, which provides financial incentives to landlords who proactively maintain their rental units by keeping them free of code violations and criminal activity has been instrumental. Higher numbers of onsite management and more equitable rental disbursement has been a positive result of this program. This decreases the number of unmaintained housing units, minimizes crime and increases property values. Win, win, and win for all of us.
Clearly, things are going along swimmingly for Ogden City and there is more to come. Just this week we learned that the city has decided to sell the old Swift meatpacking plant, located in west Ogden next to the Weber River, to an aerospace manufacturing operation from California. As Ogden has recently been named one of the largest job creating communities in the U.S, this plant will continue to keep both jobs as well as housing in an upward direction of growth. And if this spurs a concern about downtown parking ... worry not, there are plans on the table for that as well.
For the locals, let’s consider ourselves incredibly fortunate. We have been sitting on a gold mine. Our secret is out, but it is still OUR secret and that’s something. Now let’s keep mining.