OGDEN — Ogden City hopes a captive audience with Union Pacific’s top executives will help push forward their plan to redevelop the Union Station.
When the city celebrates the sesquicentennial of the driving of the Golden Spike in the spring, senior officials from the 156-year-old railroad company will be in Ogden — good timing, says Mayor Mike Caldwell, for the city to hammer home a bold pitch.
Nearly 150 years ago, the first transcontinental railroad across the United States was completed in Northern Utah. On May 10, 1869, the ceremonial Golden Spike was driven at Promontory Summit in Box Elder County, connecting the rail lines of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific.
Built between 1863 and 1869, the transcontinental line connected the Pacific Coast at San Francisco Bay with the existing Eastern U.S. railway. The railroad revolutionized the American West with a dependable transportation system that brought Western states economic prosperity through the relatively inexpensive and speedy movement of both goods and people.
The railroad played a major role in the history of Northern Utah, specifically Ogden. Several events will occur in and around Ogden and Weber and Box Elder counties as the 150th anniversary is celebrated next year.
Caldwell says UP executives are scheduled to be in the Ogden area for the celebrations on May 9, 10 and 11. The city is counting on using the time to broker some kind of deal that would further plans for a complete a large-scale renovation of the 95-year-old historic train depot and its grounds. Though still in its infancy, the project could include large, public open spaces, museums, art galleries, high-density housing, retail space, meeting and event space and administrative offices.
The plan has been in limbo for several years because, even though the city owns the station itself, UP owns all of the ground surrounding it. According to city council documents, UP and Southern Pacific Transportation company donated the Union Station depot, the annex and a few other buildings to Ogden in 1976. UP retained the underlying land surrounding the station, but leased it to the city. The lease deal is set to expire on Jan. 1, 2026.
Caldwell said until the city can acquire the land, sinking time and money into a long-term overhaul doesn’t make sense.
“We’re still talking to Union Pacific and we hope to be well down the road by (the sesquicentennial), but we’ll definitely have a captive audience then,” Caldwell said. “We think it would be a great gesture if (at the celebration) they either donated or sold that land to us.”
In late 2017, the city resumed management of the Union Station, ending a nearly 13-year management agreement with the Union Station Foundation. The city council allocated $567,000 for the station’s annual operating budget and put the facility under the city’s Community and Economic Development Department.