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Ogden officials talk land acquisition for expansive Union Station restoration, development

By Deborah Wilber - | Dec 1, 2022
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This rendering included in Ogden City documents shows a proposed Union Station campus with the historic cultural building at center left, restored and intact. The project would be part of a new development along Wall Avenue that also would include a transit-oriented development by the Utah Transit Authority.
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Ogden City is looking to purchase 8.06 acres of land from Union Pacific to create a 35-acre Union Station campus within the dotted white line shown in this graphic depicted in city documents.
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This rendering included in Ogden City documents shows a proposed Union Station campus with the historic cultural building, center, restored and intact. The project would be part of a new development along Wall Avenue that also would include a transit-oriented development by the Utah Transit Authority.
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This rendering included in Ogden City documents shows a proposed Union Station campus with the historic cultural building at top right, restored and intact. The project would be part of a new development along Wall Avenue that also would include a transit-oriented development by the Utah Transit Authority.

OGDEN — City Council members on Tuesday discussed the proposed purchase of 8.06 acres of land from Union Pacific in order to preserve ownership and control of the historic Union Station for Ogden’s Redevelopment Agency to create a cultural anchor in the community.

As part of the long-ranging Make Ogden plan, the Union Station site and adjacent properties to the north and south will undergo extensive redevelopment pending approval for purchase from the council.

With a transit-oriented development planned for Utah Transit Authority property adjacent to Union Station, Ogden City opted to work with the UTA to develop a project across the site at the gateway of Ogden’s downtown sector.

In combining Union Station property with other agency-owned property as well as the UTA, a dense 35-acre campus would be created through the plan.

According to Ogden Redevelopment Manager Damen Burnham, a study by North Carolina-based consulting firm Urban3 revealed how density affects a city’s ability to pay for services and sustain economic stability, whereas sprawling development is of little benefit.

“We need to be doubling down on our downtown,” he said.

Steve Jones, chairman of Golden Spike Railroad Historical Society, is among some members of the community upset by plans for Union Station. Rumors that the iconic cultural attraction would be gutted or moved were addressed by Brandon Cooper, Ogden’s director of community and economic development, who said the tales are not true.

The station will remain largely untouched with the exception of restorations to the main lobby and the building’s exterior, according to the city’s Make Ogden plan.

With intentions to expand museums and make them better in providing a cohesive narrative of Ogden’s history, a new museum building and train hall are planned.

Prior to relinquishing management of the building back to the city in 2017 through a signed agreement in which the city promised to incorporate museums into any future development, the Union Station Foundation began formulating a Union Station master plan that did not include the campus as a whole.

Cooper said at the end of the day, without the acquisition of the land, enhancements would not be possible due to a lease on the building set to expire in 2027, placing full authority back into the hands of Union Pacific.

In entering into a 50-year lease agreement, Union Pacific Railroad and Southern Pacific, which merged in 1996, donated the station, annex and Trainmen’s Building to the city while retaining ownership of the underlying property.

“They can do whatever they want with it,” Cooper said, which could include tearing it down, though he does not believe it likely to occur.

If Union Pacific were to decide to sell the property — a more likely scenario in Cooper’s eyes — the city would have no choice but to relocate all museums off of the Union Station campus.

“Our recommendation has been and continues to be that we take advantage of the opportunity that we have to buy the property,” he said.

Creating an economic engine is at the top of a list of “Critical Success Factors” identified by the city in developing a plan for the Union Station campus.

Future development of the building must generate revenue in order for the city to care for the facility, Burham said.

Terms and conditions of the proposed purchase and sale agreement for the Union Station property include a purchasing price of $5.56 million with $10,000 due upon execution of the contract and $90,000 paid at closing.

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